Garages need to be organized now and then – to get rid of no longer used items, make way for new, assess what is there, etc. Once during a reorganization of our camping gear we made an unpleasant discovery.
We had mice in the garage.
They got into everything.
Instead of simply organizing, we had to engage in a full scale cleaning, sanitizing, and throwing a lot of stuff in the garbage.
Neat little packets of napkins and handy wipes in individual ziplock bags? Chewed through and torn up. The small bottle of dish soap – and its ziplock bag – had a hole in it. It was empty, the liquid having drained all over the plastic knives, forks, and spoons. The melamine dishes were dotted with droppings.
Did you know mice eat dried red peppers? There is your newly-learned mouse fact for the day.
It is kind of a big deal because some of our local mice carry hantavirus, primarily deer mice. Frankly, I strongly suspected that our rodent destructors in the garage were common house mice, but I was unwilling to assume that having not seen them, just the evidence of their existence.
So we were out in the backyard, hosing stuff down and cleaning multiple times with bleach wipes.
Needless to say, I did not want the Navigator around while we did this so that he would not be exposed to any potential viruses. I also did not want to tell him about it because I did not want to trigger anxiety.
As we were cleaning, he was inside playing on his computer. Surely it would be hours before he came out looking for food, or more screen time.
He came outside wanting to know what I was doing. I ordered him back into the house without explaining what I was doing. He refused. I insisted again, increasing my volume and the seriousness of my voice.
He stood there stubbornly, and after I finally used the mom voice “GET. IN. THE. HO– USE. NOW!” he went back in, slamming the door shut, clearly peeved.
I know I was partly to blame for this. We never really worked on doing what I tell him to when I tell him to do it as a matter of course, because he always needed to know why.
I responded to this perseverative aspect of him, his needing to understand all possible details about everything, by filling the need and explaining things as best as I could in developmentally appropriate ways.
As I stood in the backyard, hosing mice nasties away, I realized that I needed help figuring out what to do in this circumstance. I called him back outside.
I asked him what I should do.
I explained that I don’t know whether I should tell him about the mice and risk his experiencing anxiety and even nightmares, or not tell him and have him be angry because I am not explaining why I don’t want him outside and risking his getting stuck and maybe even a meltdown.
He started to focus on the details – how many mice, what kind of mess, what does it look like – and I redirected him.
“No,” I said. “I need to know whether you think I should tell you about this or not. Is it better for you to know or not to know why I won’t let you outside?”
He thought about it for a moment and then said “It is better that I know. I am going back inside now.”
One of us is growing up.