When my son was learning to speak, he did some fairly disastrous things to the English language. Naturally, the more disastrous the thing was, the more interesting it was, and so the more likely it was to get incorporated into my vocabulary.
For a couple of years, we lived in a really nice old house in Toronto. Old houses come with mice, and I come with cats… you can see where this is going. My cat Zachary, however, didn’t like all the mouse parts. He’d eat the head and shoulders, and leave the rest for me to deal with. We’d usually find the remnants in the long hallway which connected the bedrooms.
My son, who would have been about 2 years old, would sproing his miniature self out of bed at some ungodly hour of the morning, fling open the bedroom door to check on the carnage, and then bodily throw himself on me and my sleeping infant daughter to announce, “Zachary made a mouse!” I was never sure if he meant mouse or mess, or maybe mouse mess, but to make a mouse became a popular verb phrase in our house. A situation where one uses the phrase must, indeed, warrant the phrase: it must involve entrails and permanent stains on the carpet and a very bad omen for the day. It can also be a warning: don’t you dare make a mouse; you know the potential for disaster.
Several things have been moused around lately. Yesterday, one of my kids’ friends attempted suicide. It looks like the friend will survive (in what state, I wonder, and to what purpose?) but, of course, the initial few hours were touch-and-go. It seems there was a suicide note posted on a public page, but it involved Pink Floyd lyrics so no one picked up on it as a serious threat; several people made sarcastic, off-hand comments about it. Said people were, momentarily, blamed for encouraging the suicide attempt. Hair was torn, clothing rent, doors slammed, blood-bonds broken.
In the end, everything got sorted out, though. I was surprised. It seemed pretty mousey to me, and I was preparing myself for a few more cardinal sins to be committed.
They don’t write about mousey situations in the parenting books. Underneath those airbrushed pictures of gestating mothers with small ankles and neatly-fitting clothing, there are no captions saying, “In 17 years, you’re going to be talking this child through the ins and outs of life and death.” It probably a good thing they don’t tell us that, if’n we want the human race to continue at all.
It’s moused-up that life is so fragile yet so tenacious, and that we have such power to control it yet we don’t realise it. It’s moused-up that parents, at some terrible point in their lives, will have to teach this to their children. While I don’t believe in it, I understand the appeal of teaching children that God is the only one who has that power; it would be really easy to just spew that out and get on with life.
Life is not for mousing with. I am really glad, though, that my children got to learn this lesson from this perspective rather than from their recovering friend’s perspective. I hope he learns it, though, and learns it well.