Source: Science 2.0
It had taken him a while to notice it. He wasn’t one of those helicopter parents, watching his child every single second, constantly pressuring him to be doing things. When he got home from school it was with him if he wanted to go play outside, or watch a little tv, or whatever. He and Sheila had sworn they weren’t going to be tyrants. So long as the homework got done and they were home for diner, it all worked out.
But he’d finally started to pick up on the change. Rather than going outside someday it seemed to be everyday. Ben would announce his departure with a loud “Dad! I’m going outside!” followed by a slammed door. And then the quiet that could only come from not have a ten year-old in the house. It had been great for in terms of getting work done, but unusual for Ben.
He’d asked him, of course. But the explanations of just playing in the treehouse seemed off. Especially with his best friend Steve on vacation. He’d talked to Sheila about it, too. But she was incredulous.
“Do you really want to look a gift horse in the mouth? He’s outside, playing like young boys are supposed to. This is a good thing.”
But his curiosity was piqued. He couldn’t help it.
So the next time he heard the call, he want to their bedroom to watch him go out the back. Ben crept into the backyard cautiously. Not quite tip-toed, but definitely like he was trying to avoid being noticed. He stopped at the tree, looked around, and then crept around the back of it the woodland that lay behind their property.
That was all he needed to see. He ran downstairs, out the back door, and raced after him. He’d left close enough behind that it wasn’t long before he saw him.
“Ben!’ he called, running up to him. “Hey buddy, where’re you going?”
“Da-ad- you’re not supposed to be here!” he admonished him.
“Why?” he asked, slightly out of breath and remembering how long it had been since he got on the treadmill.
“Because,” he said, his voice quieting, “you might scare her.”
“Scare who?” he whispered, kneeling next to his son and looking around.
“What bird?” he asked.
Ben sighed exasperatedly and folded his arms.
All he could do was kneel there, trying not to look untrustworthy.
“Fine- but you can’t tell anybody, ok?” Ben cautioned, waving a finger threateningly at him the same hat Sheila did. It was one of those exact mimcs that should have been endearing but was just creepy.
He made into a grasping shape, held them up to his mouth, turned, and then threw the invisible key to the side.
Ben nodded, and motioned for him to follow. He lead him deeper into the growth, past the thicket of trees and into the tall grasses that lead down to the brook. He mentally chastised himself for not keeping a closer eye on him, and a strong reminder to check both of them for ticks when they got back. Ben was perfectly unaware of the dangers and walked on with purpose.
“Ok, ok- be really careful,” he said, holding a handout to stop his father from advancing and then carefully stepping down the incline.
He followed him one step at time, then nearly lost his footing when a large twig snapped under his weight.
“Dad!” Ben yelled, turning on him with an accusatory glare.
He held his hands up, nodding, then took the next step slowly; feeling for sure footing before letting his weight drop. Ben kept on until they reached a flat spot in the grass.
“Ok,” he said, “just stay there.” He pointed at him again, the same warning finger, and set his backpack down in the grass. He squatted down and started rummaging through the grass. He was being very cautious, turning over longer pieces as if they were fragile pieces if art.
He stood frozen in his spot, concentrating on maintaining balance in his uneven perch while leaning over to see. Ben pushed aside the branches of some green, leafy plant and gasped excitedly. “Look!” he said, pointing down.
He couldn’t see what he was pointing to. Slowly, carefully, he squatted, then let himself fall back onto his butt and half slid, half stepped down.
“Be careful!” Ben hissed at him.
He pulled some grasses and uprooted a couple of weeds along the way but he made it down to where Ben was looked, and looked over his shoulder.
“I thought they might’ve hatched by now,” Ben said, a slight tinge of disappointment in his voice.
“Where’s their mom?” he asked, smiling at the discovery.
“I don’t know. I’ve been bringing her crickets,” he said, and pulled out a Chinese food take-out container with what looked like dead insects inside. He wondered how long it had taken him to find the bugs.
“Well, “ he said, sliding his arm around his son as they knelt in the grass, “I’m sure she’ll be happy you came.”