Some who know me well, know that some of my favorite memories as a new mom happened while working at a friend’s in-home daycare with my own toddling children. It was as typical a daycare as any you’ve seen, equipped with slides, toys, books, and twelve or so energetic toddlers determined to explore and test the physical boundaries of this new environment.
My son was perhaps the most curious of the twelve. He reached for everything which went directly from his fingertips and into his mouth. From the moment he found his legs able to carry him from one side of the room to the other, he toddled away from the toys and to as far an area in the house as he could manage. When he discovered he could use his increasing balance and strength to propel himself upward, it was not uncommon to discover him perched on tip-toes four shelves up on the floor-to-cieling bookcase. Yes, it was obvious that Ben was destined to a life of discovery, but I could never have predicted what his probing curiosity would lead to in that little place.
Like any parent or caretaker, my favorite part of the day became naptime, when the hushed sounds of sleeping children filled the room and I could take a moment to just sit, unmoving and alone with my own thoughts. I dreaded any intrusion of the sacred time.
On this day, it seemed especially simple to get each child settled into their early afternoon rest time. The almost two-year-olds compliantly sprawled out, bellies first, blankets and bears in hand, on their nap mats in the section of the open living area we had converted to an afternoon rest spot, far enough away from the well-used playroom as to create a distinct place for kids to transition from play to rest with ease. Without much time at all from the quiet-time reminder to close their eyes, tiny fingers began to lose their tight-fisted grip on the blankies that assured them a confident rest and I began to revel in the silence escaping to a favorite book.
I’ll admit, I was a bit lost in the story when I heard a happy squeal from the direction of my son’s sleeping mat. I adjusted my eyes as I watched him bounce up and down on his knees. His small blue shorts emphasized the look of his rounded legs, which still looked almost baby-like as I watched him from behind.
Suspicious of the now sheer glee in my son’s voice as he loudly giggled and squealed, I got up to get a better look. Slowly, I peaked around the front of my son’s mat where the couch had obscured my vision before and there it was- the biggest mouse I had ever seen, laid out in front of my son.
As if in slow motion, the drool-filled toddler, my adventurous little everything-finder, reached his sausage fingers in the air and propelled them down in front of him, as he dove face-first with his drool-filled mouth and back up again. To my horror, Ben had taken the opportunity to taste the conquest which was laid out- still and lifeless- in front of him. I later realized that my son had not gone down so easily for his nap. Instead, he reached his little fingers as far under the bookcase he could and pulled on the first thing he touched, a very large and dead mouse!
I sprung from my seat on the floor, scooped him up into my arms, all-the-while trying desperately not to scream out loud for fear the other eleven might try to follow him in inquisitive exploration of the foreign creature.
Disgusted with the horrific thought of the filthy critter my son had been gnawing on, I grabbed the closest thing I could associate with clean; a bar of soap. Frantically, I turned on the water full-pressure and attempted to cleanse his palate-literally!
I’m not saying it was the wisest course of action, but in a panic, it was all I could think of. Yes, I washed his mouth out with soap, but I had good reason!