For some reason last Friday, the girls wanted to have a sleep out in our room. That means they built little beds on the floor out of a mini-futon and several layers of sleeping bags and pillows. Odd, I know, but at least they're not asking to get tattoos!
By the time sleep!Joy and I made it to bed, it was getting close to midnight. The girls were very cute in their improvised beds, Piper curled up on her pillow between them. We turned out the lights, and were talking as we sometimes do. The discussion turned to different methods of showing compassion or a lack thereof. One of my points was that many times in our society, sentimentality and emotionalism is seen as the only valid expression of compassion. You don't feel
sad because some tragedy happened halfway around the world? You lack compassion! I also pointed out that this was one of the classic male/female divides in our culture. Stereotypically, women talk and feel, while men act. And uh oh... as soon as you start bringing up stereotypes, people start to think about being offended. Fortunately, there was a diversion.Flap-flap-flap.
It was much like the sound that Piper makes when she "shakes it out" and her ears flap against the sides of her head. But not quite. I heard it again, but this time near the ceiling, where I was pretty sure that Piper was not. In the darkness, something darted across my field of vision.
"Joy, there's a bat in the room."
"Argh," said Joy.
It was a kind of puzzle. If I simply ignored it and went to sleep, Piper would eventually notice that there was a rodent in the room, freak out with the barking, and scare everyone half to death. If I attempted to capture the bat, I would have to turn on at least one light, probably make some noise, and almost certainly wake the little ones. "Daddy, what are you doing?" "Trying to catch that bat. Don't move. He's right behind you." "AAAAAAAAAA!!!"
I decided to at least try to get him. My eyes were adjusted to the darkness, and I could see him flitting around the room.
"I'm going to turn on the little light," I said.
"I might scream," said hilarious!Joy. She seemed to be slightly amused with herself, as though she knew she wasn't intellectually afraid of bats, but at the same time aware of the fact that, when in your pj's at midnight, a bat landing on your head might provoke a certain type of involuntary outburst.
I turned on the light, and the little fellow disappeared. I poked around for him, but there were open doors to two closets, and he could have been between any of the dozens of hanging clothes. I did shake out the curtains, as they will sometimes hide there when surprised. I couldn't search too vigorously, though, as I had two sleeping kids a few feet away from me on the floor.
practical!Joy and I resolved that I would open the window in Lucy's bedroom, in case I was able to catch him. Doing it in our room would have been too much of a commotion and probably lead to the previously mentioned conversation ending in "AAAAAA!"
As I switched on the light in Lucy's room, something whizzed by my head. I jumped back out and quickly closed the door. Got him! Now, go back to bed and let him find a nice hiding place in Lucy's room so she can find him tomorrow after school, or just finish it tonight?
I grabbed a shirt out of the closet, went into her room and opened the window. The little bat was doing laps around the ceiling. Now, I know that I'm intellectually unafraid of bats, and also physically unafraid of them in general,
but for about the first minute I was in the room, I knew that in the specific
case of him flying straight at my face, I'd give a yelp of some kind.
After a brief time in the room with him, though, he could have landed on top of my head and I wouldn't have cared. It was clear that this was not
the evening he had been looking forward to.
It would have been easier to just get a badminton racket and smack him silly, but I'm not the kind of person who kills things for little reason, even if it costs me some effort and sleep. My least-harm plan was to envelope him in the shirt, then toss the entire bundle out the window. He'd squirm his way free, then be off to chase mosquitoes!
Over the next ten minutes of jumping and spinning around the room, I caught him twice. Both times he escaped. I was trying to be gentle, because they're fragile animals, and like mice, simply holding them too tightly when they're freaking out can kill them. Eventually, he flew near the open window and with some guidance on my part found his way out into the night.
Compassion lives in action.