Jack the Opossum
Last night I was in my basement utility/gym/furnace/place we throw toys room hurriedly throwing Legos and cars into a box before going upstairs and attempting to put my kids to bed. As I finished cramming a doll that had seen better days into a bin I felt it. Not really it, as much as something. That something had two beady eyes and was staring at me.
I looked over to the window well in the corner of the room (which is covered by our deck) just in time to see the eyes disappear into a tuft of fur. Sure that it was the fat rabbit that often poops on my deck I exclaimed “What a mess you have gotten yourself into rabbit,” as I walked to the window and tapped on the glass.
I was greeted by a face that only a mother could love. No, this was not a rabbit, but instead a rather large opossum; teeth, snout and all. I could tell you that I flexed and did something manly at this discovery, but let’s be honest, I nearly screamed as I ran out of the room to get my wife and children.
So there we were in our basement, past bedtime and knocking on a long ignored window to get the opossum’s attention. My wife gasped as it turned to look at us while I noted that “we have a big problem.” My son stared with terror-filled eyes contemplating the opossum’s ability to break through glass. After some healthy debate* and a call to my father-in-law we decided the best course of action was to leave the animal alone on the off chance that he simply climbed out of the window well during the night.
The kids went upstairs and I went back down to secure the window and door just in case this was a super-opossum bent on attacking us all as we slept. It was then my phone rang and I recounted the night’s experience to my brother-in-law who said “I know you are a bit panicked and spooked by this but it kind of sounds like an adventure.”
As I hung up and went upstairs I heard the fear my son now had about this opossum and I remembered the comment my brother-in-law had made. I decided at that moment to try a different approach to the evening’s events. Rather than making this opossum out to be a terrible, man eating and rabid beast looking for little toes to bite, I decided to tell my son a story about the opossum.
My son and I decided that the opossum’s name was Jack and after a rousing night of playing with his buddies he decided to make some new friends by visiting our window well. As we made up Jack’s story I saw the fear in my son’s eyes begin to subside and eventually he was even thankful that we got to meet Jack. I put my son to bed and he laughed about the fate of old Jack and I went back downstairs to find that Jack had gotten out on his own.
Cool story Jason. Opossum’s are neat/scary/ugly. Right, but this is what I realized: As parents we have an incredible amount of influence over how our children view the world. Friendly opossum looking to introduce himself or blood thirsty animal waiting to attack; you tell me. The thing is that if we aren’t careful our kids pick up what we say and do regardless of if it is true or not.
This can be a double-edged sword. In some ways it is great and saves our kids from harm like when we tell our kids not to pet bears, eat gum off the ground or talk to strangers. However, in contrast, when we share our disdain for others, have excessive fear or anger, or unrealistic expectations we can limit and even harm our children’s view.
So let me ask you this. What have your words and actions taught your child about the world this week? Have you taught them things that make their world bigger or smaller? If it’s tough to answer try asking them “What have you learned from mommy/daddy?” The answers may surprise you.
-Be aware of your reactions to situations. Do you react positively or negatively?
-Notice the words and phrases you use most often around your kids. What are you telling them?
-Ask yourself “Am I accurately assessing the situation?” When your child picks up the salt shaker after being told not to and then drops it on the floor spilling it everywhere is it really the worst thing ever (it could be close!)?
Lastly, remember that most of the time our hearts are in the right place and we want the best for our kids. Just make sure that your words and actions reflect the love and care that you feel for them.
*Although it was contemplated there were no opossums injured during the writing of this blog post.