My oldest son, Noah, was recently “hanging out” with a friend down the street. Around 8:00 p.m. I texted him that it was time to come home, and when he promptly texted back, “Yes ma’am,” I instantly knew something was up. There was no plea for another 30 minutes, nothing mentioned about not having homework, not even the typical non-response followed hours later by, “Sorry, mom! I left my phone in Max’s room, and we were downstairs…”
I prepared myself for the worst. Not because my son is a trouble-maker…in fact he’s just the opposite. Just last night my daughter, Lindsay, was telling Noah that she ran into an old friend of his from elementary school. This friend kept telling Lindsay, “You’re brother is a cool dude. He’s the reason I put down the cigarettes and gave up the idea to paint the neighbor’s car pink.” He went on to say that Noah is always the voice of reason, telling the kids to re-think their crazy ideas. However Noah is a 14 year-old boy and all 14 year-old boys eventually find trouble. There was an incident with the police several months ago while my husband was on a business trip across the country. It was nothing big, just a case of him being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
By 8:15 Noah was home, looking a little nervous and disheveled. Against my better judgment I asked him, “What have you been doing all afternoon?” He stuttered and stammered and eventually told me I was better off not knowing. Believing that to be true, I demanded he tell me anyway. He started out his explanation with, “It’s really not a big deal so don’t freak out.” My son knows me well. I took a deep breath and waited to hear about how he’d tried a cigarette (or worse) but not to worry because he didn’t like it; or that he was not really at Max’s house but instead fulfilling a dare by climbing to the top of a water tower. Here’s what I got:
“Mom, we killed a raccoon.” I was stunned! “You WHAT?” I asked. “Why??” “Max wanted his skin. Mom, it’s really no big deal,” replied Noah. I did as I do best and immediately started running scenarios through my head. In a panic I shouted, “Noah! Don’t you know that’s how serial killers start out!!!” He looked at me blankly and then almost offended he said, “Mom, are you being serious? It was a raccoon. He was old and mean and sick. We put him out of his misery.” “Sick?” I asked. “How do you know he was sick? Are you suddenly a veterinarian?” “No, mom. When we cut him open he had all kinds of worms in him.” Staggering and reaching for the wall to catch my balance I barely whispered the words, “You…cut…him…open?” “Of course, mom. I told you Max wanted his skin.”
At that point he pulled out his cell phone and began flipping through photo after photo of the animal at various stages of dissection. I literally almost passed out. My precious baby boy had turned into a killer. Suddenly I needed to know all the details. Where were they when they found the raccoon? How did they catch him? And after seeing how perfectly the skin had been removed, I wondered how he knew how to do that.
The details started pouring from him and he visibly became more excited. It turns out that Max’s father was with them. They had trapped the raccoon on their property and were going to take him out somewhere and release him, however the raccoon was rather large and behaving aggressively. Noah said by the 5th or 6th time they had poked him with a stick to test his response, they knew that he was too mean to release and must be killed. I had to stop him for a moment. “Noah! For Pete’s sake you trapped him in a cage and were POKING HIM WITH A STICK! Of course he was mean!”
Noah insisted that I was completely overreacting so to prove that I was rightly distraught I told him he must explain to my husband, Reed, when he came home from getting some work done. Shortly after that Reed showed up, laptop and a venti Americano in hand. Smirking at Noah I said, “Go ahead, Noah. Tell him what you did tonight!” Noah took a deep breath and knowing that Reed always sides with me reluctantly told the story. Reed sat there, blank-faced while he listened. When Noah had finished telling his crazy story he bowed his eyes toward the floor and waited for the inevitable. Reed sat for a few more seconds processing the story and then without hesitation and in the most proud tone ever all he could say was, “Cool!” For the second time that evening I was shocked. “Cool?” I asked. “Are you serious?” “Babe, it was a wild animal. That’s what boys do.” he calmly replied.
I felt defeated and, convinced that I would one day be visiting my son in solitary confinement, I dragged myself to my room to take a long, hot bath. But not before I insisted that Noah burn the shirt he was wearing and go shower with bleach to assure all the germs and disease were gone.
The next day I went to work, knowing for certain that I would find friends to commiserate with me. Surely other moms must feel the same way I do. However each time I told the story I was met with laughter and, “Boys will be boys.” One friend even went so far as to blame God, saying that he designed men to be hunters and providers and that it was just instinctive to them. Appalled at that thought, I ran back to my other friend, Google, and found that she was actually right. God did design men to hunt. In fact, he made animals (for the most part) to be hunted. So, it turns out my son likes to hunt and I suppose I should be proud rather than mortified. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I would expect otherwise when I’ve allowed my son to watch endless hours of “Man vs. Wild”.
Now that I’ve had time to let it sink in, rather than be afraid and disgusted I suddenly feel secure knowing that if Reed and I ever lose our jobs, our cars, and our home…our son will be skilled enough to catch us a tasty raccoon for dinner. Anyone know any good recipes?