Did I tell you about the witches?

Have I told you yet? About the witches? They’ve become kind of a big deal in my family, and to this day I’m not one hundred percent sure how it happened. I mean, I know the details. Well, those that time haven’t taken away from or warped on me. It’s the why that boggles the mind.

Let me give you the facts, as I know them, and maybe you’ll be able to see where I went wrong…

It was a beautiful summer day two years ago when I started vying for the title of “most questionable parenting decision.” My husband had his fishing license. I did not. (I had convinced myself I didn’t actually like fishing, or the outdoors. I was foolish and had forgotten.) We’d bought our daughter this pink children’s fishing pole that she’d picked out. We had a tackle box, bait, a smattering of snacks. I also had a book and a picnic blanket, and I was prepared to laze about in the sun and only do parenting when the child needed food. After all, I couldn’t really help with the fishing. I had no license. Even touching fishing equipment at a pond could get me in trouble.

I cackled with glee at my obvious good fortune all the way to the local pond. I snirked as we unloaded the car. I rolled about on my blanket as the husband and child got their fishing gear all set up, finding the perfect reading in the sun position. And then I realized the tactical error we had made…

You see, my child wasn’t content to just cast and reel in her line. No. She had to whirl about with a hook on a line. Shout next to the water. Cast into the reeds. Cast into trees. Cast into my husband’s leg…

Long story short, at four years old my child did not have the patience for fishing. In an effort to salvage some of my husband’s day- and because she wasn’t letting me read anyway- I volunteered to take our child for a walk on the wooded path around the lake. The one that I myself had not walked on since I was a child. The memories there are obviously faulty, being over twenty-five years old, but I did recall fishing from the winding trails that in some areas were right on the water. Plus there were several other people already fishing from random spots along the path.

All I really knew is that I wanted her with me and not running off pell-mell like four-year-olds tend to do. Like she did, the second we were on a straight away. To prove how fast she could run, or because she was the leader or some other nonsense I couldn’t hear over the panic that was preventing air from getting to my brain. I scolded her, but a scolding rolls off a child’s back in the face of adventure… so I told her she had to stay close.

Because witches lived in the woods.

I know. Right there is where you think the problem is. It’s not, though. It’s not. Because I could’ve stopped myself there and let it drop. She would have asked approximately seventy-five million times what I meant, but I could have brushed it off telling her I was joking. I even had the impulse to do just that. Up until she questioned me. Acting as if she knew so much more about the woods and wasn’t I just a silly mommy? So even though I knew down to my bones that it was wrong as the words were coming out of my mouth, I did not stop them. They just kept coming as I wove a tale about witches that lived in the woods. The ones who ate anyone foolish enough to wander from the trails.

I kept it going until I almost believed it. Until the witches had wolves for pets and lived on the paths marked with the red flags.

And when we got back to the pond, when she took up fishing again, she looked over to this tiny corpse of saplings and gasped. I asked her what was wrong, and she turned and gave me a sly smile. “I just saw one of the witches that live in the woods,” she said. Leaving me to wonder if I was proud of my little girl, or horrified of my own parenting…

(For the record, she still tells people to stay on the trail, but not the red ones… the witches live down there and their wolves will get you if you stray…)

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