For months I have been reminding my children to wear shoes when they are running through our back lawn, which, thanks to a field of flowering clover, has become a festive gathering place for honeybees.
My kids usually refuse to put on shoes, and I have stopped trying to make them, because, Christ, they're not my feet. I have better things to do than chase down preschoolers as they yell "hide!" and race away at the sight of me holding their sneakers. (I don't always do those better things, but I could be doing better things. It's more the principal of the thing.) My thinking is, a good sting might persuade them to listen to me in the future.
But it's been dozens of hours of bare feet and bees, and no one has gotten stung. Until I slipped my shoes off the other day. My feet were bare for about 45 seconds before I felt a slight pressure on the underside of my right foot. Thirty seconds later the pressure had turned to agony, and it was all I could do to resist unleashing a string of profanities that would have made my grandmother cry.
Instead, I grinned tightly, told my kids I was fine, and hopped into the kitchen for some ice. I suppressed my own sobbing for fear that I might frighten the babies. It felt like a good parent moment, putting their need to feel safe above my need to roll on the ground shouting, "Oh, f***," over and over again.
And then Henry came in.
"Mom?" he asked, his eyebrows scrunched in concern.
"Yes, honey," I said, rocking back and forth as I held the sandwich bag of ice over my arch.
"That bee spent all day collecting pollen so it could make honey for the baby bees, and you killed her," he said, crossing his arms and scowling in condemnation.
Now I'm thinking I could start a career of talking about my kids to teen pregnancy prevention classes.