Hedgehogs live in New Zealand. I didn’t know this until I saw one creep, creep, creeping across the driveway and over the lawn. A spiky little splodge with feet. I shrieked. The hedgehog probably had a mild heart attack. (But it concealed it well and carried on about its creeping business.)
The children were entranced. Bella followed it around the garden. Talked to it. (It was a rather snobbish hedgehog and didn’t engage in conversation with a five year old.) I did a quick google search and told them all not to touch the hedgehog because they had fleas. And possibly rabies. And maybe even were carriers of bubonic plague. (I didn’t need Google to tell me that. Everybody knows that it was the fleas on the rats that carried the plague. Hedgehog has fleas? DING – think bubonic plague. Its elementary Watson.)
The children listened to me and kept their distance. But I could hear them still talking to the hedgehog. Making friends with it from a distance. Arguing about whether or not to give it a girl or boy name. Bella asked, “How do we know if it’s a girl or a boy?” How do we know indeed…
I assumed my “Very Wise Woman” expression, “It’s a girl hedgehog.” But I couldnt just stop there. Oh no. I had to go and get creative. “This hedgehog is a mummy hedgehog. She’s got some babies back at home and she’s very tired of looking after them so the Daddy hedgehog is babysitting so she can have a holiday. That’s why she’s visiting our garden. She wants to have a break from all her rotten little hedgehog kids that keep pestering her all the time.”
Bella was impressed by my hedgehog’ean knowledge. (Let’s face it, sometimes, I’m so clever that I impress myself.) She was moved to compassion for this precious, hardworking Mummy Hedgehog. “Ooh look mum, she’s resting in a ball in the leaves. Poor Mummy hedgehog. Everybody be quiet and let her sleep. She’s on a holiday from her babies.”
I went back inside, rather pleased with myself. Thanks to my wonderful creativity, my child cares for nature and all its creatures. She will probably grow up to be an environmental warrior. A champion for animal rights. I am so good at this job.
And then the hedgehog died. Just up and died on my back lawn. The children came back from school and there it was – as dead as a dead hedgehog can be. Lying there on a pile of dead leaves. Not moving. Not snuffling about. Not creeping. Just dead. I poked it with a stick. Nothing.
Bella was unconvinced. “Maybe she’s sleeping.”
I didnt think so. “I’m so sorry Bella, she’s dead.” Maybe it was bubonic plague.
I got Big Son to quickly dig a hole and bury Mrs Hedgehog before she could start decomposing in front of us. Bella was sad. Way sadder than she would have been IF her big-mouth mother hadn’t told her a fanciful tale of hedgehog babies and a hardworking, harassed hedgehog mum on holiday.
It’s been two weeks now since the hedgehog’s mysterious demise and every now and again, Bella looks out the window and says, “I feel sad for the Mummy Hedgehog’s children. I hope their Daddy is looking after them good.”
So now, what am I doing? Telling this child big fat lies about what an amazing husband Mrs Hedgehog has/had. “He’s the best Daddy Hedgehog ever. Plays with them, takes them all for walks, digs up special treats for them to eat. He’s the greatest.”
It is very tiring to construct such an intricate web of lies for one’s child.
What do we learn from this?
Next time I see a hedgehog walking up my driveway – I’m going to run it over with my car. And chuck it over the hedge. Real quick before any kids can see it.
End of story.