We took our kid to Maui. We haven’t been on a true vacation in a long time and we figured in Hawaii we could just bury Sally up to her neck in sand and have dinner and drinks before she worked her way out. Perfect. I prepared us well for the long plane flight, the snorkeling, and the possibility that we would damage peoples’ retinas with our blinding whiteness. I did not prepare us for how many animals would provide “teachable moments” during the trip.
THE HAWK: Yes, hawk. Upon take-off, our plane hit a very large bird. It got sucked into the engine. We made an emergency landing. It actually was not at all scary, but we made the news in at least two states. And, major bonus, Sally got to learn how hawk smells when it’s cooking! Truly, you haven’t lived until you’ve been the parent on the plane answering questions (asked very loudly) about how they’ll get the hawk out of the engine: “Do they just pull really hard, Mom? Is it dead? What about the feathers, can they get those out? Will they use a hose to wash it off?!” [Answer: Apparently they start by plucking parts out and putting it into baggies. We didn’t watch after that.]
TOADS: Sally believed the nightly toad appearances outside our condo were pretty cute. Until her mom was the one returning from the laundry room yelling “HOLY mother of …” because she just kicked a cool, slimy guy in the dark with bare feet and freaked herself out.
SEA TURTLES and WHALES: We saw both. They were awesome. That is, to an adult who realizes what a rarity it is to see these things up close and in their natural habitats. Four year olds? They are not so impressed. “Cool, it’s neat,” she said about the giant sea turtle a mere 10 feet away from us on the beach. And then she ran off and see how much sand she could pack into her swimsuit. After she whined about having to pay attention to the whales, too, I had a nice heart-to-heart scream with her about how unappreciative she was of all these opportunities we give her. And then I realized that I was truly spiritually linked to all parents that have gone before me, because they ALL yelled at their kids for being spoiled ungrateful picky gooey little brats. …It was the ocean and all the relaxing, it really got me in touch with the cosmos…
The MONGOOSE: We almost ran one over. We had to look it up to figure out what it was, because seriously, who really sees mongooses? We learned that it is an invasive, weasel look-a-like species brought to the island to eat rats, but it turns out rats are out at night and the mongoose is out during the day, so instead it has eaten most of the lovely birds on Maui. Basically, it’s a small animal that seemed like a good idea, but then didn’t actually solve any problems, and managed to ruin a lot of the best stuff about life. And I couldn’t help but think, hmmm, why does that sound familiar…
The WILD CAT: The “wild cat” was a seven-pound stray that routinely visited our back door looking for food and scared the KUH-RAP out of Sally because she heard it was “wild.” And therefore might rip her limb from limb, one presumes. One evening after she climbed my leg like it was a coconut tree, screeching in terror at Satan himself—who, if you didn’t know, frequently takes the form of a domestic shorthair—I decided enough was enough. I went outside, squatted down and stuck my arm out. “Look, honey, it’s just a stray cat. It’s probably not used to being pet and that’s why we leave him alone, but it’s probably actually a really nice cat.” At which point, the cat bit my wrist, hard, and then hissed at me in a way that I still think he might actually have been a rabid wolf. So, logically, I screamed, “Never mind, it’s not a nice cat! It’s not a nice cat!” and locked us in the house. Brilliant parenting on all counts.
Now we’re back from paradise. And we’re pretty sad about it. But as long as I don’t start foaming at the mouth, we should be okay.