While basking in the beautiful Arizona sunshine, watching my girls blow bubbles and fight over bikes, my neighbor waved me over and told me that earlier he saw a skunk mosey across my lawn.
"Do you know where it went?" I asked.
He shrugged and pointed. "Over there. Maybe it went into your garage?"
Mr. Brown Eyes had left the garage door open. I could just picture a skunk lurking in the corners of that organized chaos, tail raised in anticipation of whoever was unfortunate enough to step inside first.
As a precaution, I told Blue-Eyed Girl to be sure and stay away from the garage because there could be a skunk inside.
She listened raptly, blue eyes wide. "What do skunks do?"
"They spray you with stink if you scare them. That's how they protect themselves."
"Are they mean?"
"No. They're scared of people. But they will spray you if you scare them and you will stink for a long time."
Blue-Eyed Girl shuddered. "I don't want to play outside anymore. Let's go inside."
We went in the house and I forgot about the mystery skunk until Blue-Eyed Girl slipped into the kitchen and asked, "Can skunks open doors?"
I laughed. "No, they don't have hands."
She visibly relaxed. "Oh good."
The skunk didn't come up again until Mr. Brown Eyes went out to mow the lawn and I warned him to be careful in the garage. And then Blue-Eyed Girl was glued to the living room window, watching Mr. Brown Eyes circle the house on the lawn mower, worrying aloud that she hoped the skunk wouldn't get Daddy. I only half-listened to her, sure she understood that the skunk wasn't going to chase down a moving lawn mower.
But as night fell and we snuggled on the couch, reading books before bedtime, Blue-Eyed Girl wouldn't stop talking about the skunk.
Finally I looked at her and asked, "Are you scared of the skunk, sweetheart?"
She nodded and my heart hurt that I had brushed her off all day, allowing her imagination to conjure up a terrifying creature with dripping fangs and a horrible stench. "They're not scary. They're like kitties, with fluffy tails and a long white stripe."
She still wasn't convinced so I asked, "Do you want to look at some pictures of skunks?"
I pulled out my phone and typed in "skunks as pets" and, thank goodness, the first picture that came up was a basket full of adorable baby skunks with tiny noses and big black eyes.
Blue-Eyed Girl grabbed my phone and exclaimed, "Daddy, look! Baby skunks!"
And just like that, her fears vanished.
No skunk so far,
The Brown-Eyed Girl