Once in, he gets right to work. With efficient focus he positions the stool next to the sink and begins tossing everything he can get his little hands on into it– toothbrushes, toothpaste, makeup, stray bath-toys… If we haven’t shut the taps as tightly as possible, he will then fill the basin, effectively soaking everything and destroying as many items as possible.
If upon the completion of these two important tasks he has not yet been discovered and ejected from the bathroom, Jack quickly moves to the toilet. (Speed counts here, because the resounding thwunk of the lid, as he slams it up, always gives him away.) The frenetic splashing and tossing of random objects into the water that commences always has an air of desperation, as if Havoc wants to get in maximum splashing before his time is ultimately up. Similarly, my bedroom door must always remain secure. Once inside Havoc heads directly for my jewelry box and begins tossing earrings and bracelets in every direction. He amasses a shiny pile of tangled chaos that has more than once reduced me to near tears.
Jack quickly develops an envious fixation on whatever his brother is doing. If Zeke is sitting in my lap, Jack will start screaming and try to push him off and take his place. Jack starts about thirty fights a day by grabbing a treasured knight figure or Spiderman toy, or plastic pteranodon, which has been carefully placed in an elaborate tableau constructed from blocks and random detritus. My peace-of-mind is constantly shattered by shouts of,
inevitably followed by slapping and tears. Sometimes it is Jack that is crying, but lately, it is often Zeke sobbing amidst the ruins of his carefully constructed fantasy world as Havoc emerges, clutching some plastic treasure, yelling, “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” as he flees at high speed.
We arrived at the playground later than usual. I dropped heavily on a wooden step and proceeded to scan the area and slurp my iced coffee, doing my best to keep both boys in my line of sight and to consume maximum amounts of cold, refreshing caffeine. Zeke was frolicking in the DragonWater, Jack stumbling about, picking up random twigs and bits of who-knows-what to present to me. It was a day like any other.
What caught my attention was a shift in Jack’s movement:
a pause and a distinct re-direct.
He had NOTICED SOMETHING.
Jack’s attention was locked on a dark form lying on the concrete. I looked at it blankly, unable to identify it.
A discarded black plastic bag? A piece of rotting fruit?
I walked closer and stood over it, staring for a good 15 seconds before it clicked- it was a freaking BAT!!!! My mind started working furiously to make sense of the situation….
No way. It was definitely real. The furry little body, the leathery folded wings, those teeny ears. And it was so small and flat. Not a toy.
Hard to say….. but probably. It’s lying in the middle of the playground, in the middle of the day.
Probably! Crap! It’s the middle of the day! What is a bat doing here?!!!
I pointed it out to a grandmother who told me calmly that it was indeed alive, and that she’d watched it crawl to that spot from somewhere else earlier. I pointed it out to a mom who said matter-of-factly, “Oh yes. The park is filled with bats. They’re great because they eat all of the mosquitoes.”
(Oh yeah. A bat on the playground. It’s no big deal, right?)
Meanwhile, the kids begin to gather. Hovering. Asking questions. Peering down. Putting their little faces disturbingly close to the bat.
“What is it?” “Is it dead?” “Is it a nice bat?” “Will it bite me?”
And all of a sudden, I was deep within a “grown-up moment”, one of those moments when it becomes uncomfortably clear that you are the adult in a situation and that you have to act responsibly. I couldn’t let my kids get so close to a sick bat. I had to DO something. (Dammit!!)
I started talking out loud to the other adults, doing my best to conceal my discomfort with the situation. The other mom was like 9 months pregnant—even though she was acting really brave, there was no way I could ask her to squat down and get rid of a sick bat. A dad came over and immediately whipped out his iphone and started snapping pictures. Clearly, it was up to me.
A plan formed in my mind. I would finish my iced coffee, scoop the bat up in the cup and toss it over the fence. As soon as I worked up the nerve……
Zeke started to get closer and closer to me, he wound an arm around my leg. He was asking questions about the bat. He was clearly nervous, but also intrigued….
“Will it bite me, Mom?”
I stood up, determined to execute my plan, when the damn thing skittered away. And when it walked: flat on its tummy, those little toe claws on the ends of its wings dragging on the concrete, insect-like and awkward…
Ugh! I was horrified! I imagined feeling the weight of it as it wiggled around inside the cup, hearing its frantic shuffling movements. I shrieked! The kids gasped. I looked around for someone else to take control of the situation. Could I call 911?
And then I focused on Zeke. He still looked nervous, but resolved, excited. I was watching his little mind turn things over and I was watching a BIG idea form there:
My boy turned away from me, ready to fulfill his destiny—and I was immediately determined to get that fucking bat off of the playground, come hell or high water.
Luckily, the iphone dad swooped in like Superman, grabbed my cup, scooped the bat up cleanly and tossed bat and cup about 3 feet away from the playground, safely outside of the fence.
I will never forget the look on Zeke’s face. The hope. The fear. The brave determination to face that fear in pursuit of power; of the magic and glory that he dreams of day in and day out.
And so terrifying.