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“What beautiful feathers!” I say when I open the gift from my seven-year-old.

“They’re from a dead bird Theo killed in the yard,” Gareth says, with great pride in the predatory prowess of our cat. I kind of figured that was where the feathers came from. I make a mental note to put an extra jingly bell on Theo’s collar. The birds need more warning.

“I’m glad you told me. I should give these lovely feathers a once-over with a disinfecting wipe. Please tell me you washed your hands after touching them?”

“I did. And after I brought the dead bird into my bedroom.”

::Long, stunned silence.::

“Okay. I’m glad you told me that, too. Let’s go clean up your room a bit.”

“Oh, it’s not in my room anymore.”

::Long, stunned silence, with a prayer for patience.::

“Where is the dead bird now?”

“When we were getting my clothes off the floor so you could run the laundry, I got worried you might find it before I was done with my project.”

“Where is the dead bird now?”

“On Daddy’s work table in the basement. I needed his needle-nose pliers to get the really long feathers off. Only the first thing I thought was the needle-nose pliers turned out to be the wire cutters. So I tried opening the bird to see what it was like inside. And then I used the…”

“Dan? Could you come discuss the state of your tools with your son? Now, please?”

So, that was last week. This week, he wanted to see what else he could get commercial Easter egg dyes to stick to. When we told him he had to help us scrub the green out of the walls, he said, “But it’s my chemistry!

I’ve taken care not to introduce my children to Admiral Hopper’s aphorism about how it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. The older one seems to have arrived at that conclusion independently. I’m not sure what I’ll do when my more easygoing younger child follows suit. Right now, Conrad spends every moment he can on storyboarding his imagined sequels to a couple of favorite videos. If he ever looks up from his little art table long enough to become his brother’s lab partner, we’re all doomed.

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