"THE MOUSE WITH A SECRET" -- HOW CAN THIS MOM BREAK NEWS TO HER KIDS?

"MARSHMALLOW," SAID OUR NEIGHBOR, A 10-YEAR-OLD BOY , "IS PREGNANT." AND HE SHOULD KNOW BECAUSE ACCORDING TO MY BROOD, "HE'S VERY SOPHISTICATED."
This announcement, barked into my shell-pinks at break-of-day, did not serve well my equilibrium. After all isn't hatching news best left to nuances, knitting-little-things, or as the White House treats it?

Not by my fawn patrol.

Flak is flying at my house since this hot news item broke. Marshmallow is our pet mouse. She has been keeping house in a cage since July. Keeping house, not playing house. Our girl mouse had no boy mouse to play WITH.

At least, that's what I told my brood of four, who urged that she be merged with a friend. One boy mouse plus one girl mouse equals trouble -- I mean babies. Simple arithmetic. But it means complex problems.

No dice, said I to the proposition postured by the progeny. One pet, yes. More, no. We're not programmed to go hog wild in the Pet Set.
I wasn't ready for this expectant air that blows in the wind. In fact, I became so disturbed that dawn that I mistook the disinfectant spray for the deodorant. But I digress...MARSHMALLOW A MOTHER?

How do I explain this? Having been sufficiently Spock-marked, I was prepared to deal with (hush) s-e-x e-d-u--c, oh what the heck, education eventuALLY. Actually, I was on the brink of a great breakthrough in communication. I was starting the birds-and-bees business with artificial flowers.

Now I don't know why I didn't let them have a baby chick instead. Eggs are easier to explain.

Their total involvement with Marshmallow's approaching motherhood covers the whole bit. "Who is the daddy?" is first. How can I tell them, "Gee, I dunno, kids....but I smell a rat....?"

There was a teeny-weeny baby visitor-Mouse banished as soon as he was brought home by my 9-year-old. Incredible. It just couldn't be...osmosis and mitosis are out of the question.

I told them to ask the science teacher at Riviera Day School. Let HIM take the Librium.

When Marshmallow farrows, mama mia! I am totally unequipped to midwife a mouse. Much less watch. The hand that rocks the cradle is trembling, I tell you. The kidniks persist. "How do the babies come out?"

"At night, when you're asleep, just like the Good Tooth Fairy," I parried, harried. And like any well-adjusted mother with both feet firmly planted in mid-air, I fast-talked, "They want to surprise you! You can't look or it will spoil the surprise!"

I mean, really, are kidniks five, six, eight and nine READY for this???

I started to smile my Mona Lisa smile. Maybe I had finally put them off... when my eldest spoke to his younger sisters, as he elbowed one's ribs, "Gaaaad, isn't she a SCREAM? --- Joan Nielsen McHale.