As a parent, I often string together words that I’m sure no one else has ever uttered ever.
Such as, “Yes, while Effin does sound a lot like Ellen, naming your stuffed animal Effin Dog is not OK.”
“No one has ever died from lack of Pop-Tart.”
“Did you pee on your karate belt?”
But here is the latest can’t-believe-I’m-about-to-say-this-out-loud example of parenting. “Hi, officer? This is a non-emergency. I just. Well. My 6-year-old son? He was bit by a squirrel. And we’re not sure what to do now.”
Giggles from the urgent care nurses beside me. Quiet sob from said boy. Complete silence from the policeman.
Let’s back up a bit. (Bit. Ha!)
My niece graduated from high school last weekend, and we traveled to Pennsylvania to help celebrate her. It was an awesome party – steamed hardshell crabs, Frisbee and beanbag games, tons of aunts and uncles, and a herd of feral cousins running through the yard. My littlest was among this herd, catching toads, spying on his sister, playing with the water hose and generally having the time of his life.
(Dun, dun, DUN!)
So here’s what I saw: From the top of the yard, where I was pouring myself a cup of iced tea, I heard screams. Then gasps. Then laughter from uncles. And finally, I looked up to see my dirt-encrusted, sweat-soaked son barreling toward me, his face twisted in horror, blood dripping from his finger, and sobs pouring from his rodent-betrayed soul.
“What happened?” I yelled as I ran toward him.
The oldest cousin (age 13): “It’s not my fault! I told him not to touch it!”
“He got bit by a squirrel?”
Cousin, trying not to grin. “Yeah. But it’s not my fault.”
To son: “You got bit by a squirrel? Seriously?”
Here’s what I didn’t see: So apparently while the little cousins were playing in a sprinkler, the oldest cousin spotted an injured squirrel crawling in the grass. My son ran to it, put his hand toward it, and the squirrel lunged. It latched on. To his finger. With all of its super-sized rodent teeth of pain.
Son freaked out, twirled in frantic circles to dislodge crazy squirrel. “He spun, like, four times,” oldest cousin said later.
Finally the squirrel let loose and so did complete chaos.
Because, seriously, how does a parent react to a wild squirrel bite?
Laughing probably isn’t the best first response.
“It’s going to be alright. You’re going to be fine,” I reassured my sobbing son.
“No, I’m not!” he wailed. “I was bit. By. A. Squirrel! I’m never going to be alright!”
(Just try not to laugh at that.)
We loaded him into the car seat, his bleeding finger wrapped in a washcloth. Then every aunt and uncle and grandparent blocked our exit to offer advice.
“You need to bring the squirrel! Aaron, get the squirrel!”
“Did you wash the bite? Put antibacterial junk on it!”
“He’s going to need antibiotics!”
“Has he had his rabies shot? Or is that just for dogs?”
“Oh my God. Rabies! He’s going to need dozens of shots!”
“Did you call the urgent care place? You should let them know you’re coming. They might need to look up squirrel bites or something.”
Someone handed me a plastic bag. The squirrel, who had passed on to the acorn-filled pasture of the sky, was zip-locked inside.
Once at the urgent care center, I realized my face was covered in Old Bay seasoning, my sundress was pit stained, and my bleeding, rodent-bit son was soaking wet. The only clean spots on his body were the tear tracks down his cheeks. And I then made another realization: I, thankfully, lived six hours away from there and would likely never see these nurses again. So I just said it.
“My son was bit by a squirrel. What do we do now?”
They laughed. “Sorry. It’s our first squirrel bite.”
They recommended calling the game warden, whose office was closed. Second up, calling the local police. Also closed (Did I mention? This was 7 p.m. on a Saturday.) Third choice, dialing 9-1-1 for the first time in my life, knowing full well this conversation was being recorded, and once again saying, “My son was bit by a squirrel.”
“And the squirrel? Has it been terminated?” Police officer asked.
“Yes. It’s in a zip-lock bag by my car.”
I’ll spare you the details that followed, which involved several other police departments (for real), messages to a game warden, and general, “Well, the thing is, I haven’t dealt with a lot squirrel bites.”
In the end, we cleaned and disinfected, called the pediatrician and confirmed that no one has ever in the history of world died of a squirrel bite. No one has ever seen a rabied squirrel. And frankly, as one Department of Environmental Protection doctor put it, “He sort of provoked the squirrel. They don’t like being picked up.”
You don’t say.
Meanwhile, my son is fervently hoping that it was a radioactive squirrel and he’ll soon develop squirrely powers.
“He’ll crack all the toughest cases, bringing justice to the world one nut at a time,” my very punny daughter deadpanned.