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bat isolated on white background

Filed Under , , on June 27th, 2015

Mousebat

By Seth Kabala

Mousebat opened its eyes, then quickly closed them when light struck the virgin lenses. The creature’s eyes were so sensitive to the effects of light, it was only able to lift the lids a millimeter at a time, every few minutes, until hours later, its eyes finally adjusted enough to permit them remaining open continuously. It then tried to shut them, but although it contracted its orbicular oculi muscles repeatedly with vigor, it succeeded only in a weak squint, for its eyelids had dried up, fallen off, and floated away.

***

At what age do you transition to being able to accept constructive criticism of your creative work without dissolving into a blubbering mass of primordial goo?

We believe we should build our childrens’ confidence through unwavering support for their endeavors, regardless of the merit of those endeavors. Obviously, this excludes my seven-year-old, Anna, building the latest, greatest, people-sized, light-weight glider out of construction paper, glue, and pipe cleaners, taking her creation up to the highest point on our roof, and taking a (short) flight. But if her and her sister and brother’s accomplishments appear to have at least a glimmer of future professional impact, we lather on the charm.

Such was the case when Anna created Mousebat (my name for it), a stuffed animal with felt skin, a body about the size of a bat, and the nose of a mouse. Well, to be fair, the nose looks like that of a Disney mouse, as in the mice that sewed Cinderella’s dress. According to Anna, though, it is a dragon.

Hmm.

Anna sewed and measured and cut and stuffed and designed her little heart out. When I look at Mousebat, I feel enormous paternal pride, and I also flash back to the creatures described in Stephen King’s From a Buick 8. At that moment, I hold onto something solidly screwed down, for fear of being sucked through the time hole to another, sinister dimension. I can see the headline:

Father “murders” daughter’s stuffed animals with shotgun, blames Stephen King

I feel Anna has yet to reach the age at which constructive criticism will spur further learning, rather than the metamorphosis into primordial ooze. Thus, I attempted to contemplate specific applications for the skills obtained in creating Mousebat, or in the use of Mousebat itself, that could be employed productively when Anna becomes an adult. I came up with three, along with their associated pros and cons:

1. Sewing

Pro–famous fashion designers have to have good sewing skills.

Con–with all those needles around, if a rival designer steals her boyfriend, there’s no telling what might happen.

2. Visualization

Pro–a lot of pre-production work for movies revolves around modeling creatures prior to rendering them in a digital environment, and the first step to completing this task is seeing your creation in your mind.

Con–she’s already obsessed with Elsa from Frozen, and we don’t need Anna visualizing a reincarnation of the Black Death and channeling its consciousness into a cute little bunny or something–that will just as soon induce exsanguination as it will endeavor to look adorable. So there’s that.

3. Self-Defense

Pro–whether Anna ends up in New York City, building her own line of high fashion garments, or out in L.A., creating the newest images that will next appear on the big screen, she’ll doubtless encounter amorous young men bent on playing a game of horizontal human mannequins. Only, the mannequins come to life. What better way to ward off these would-be suitors than to pull out Mousebat and thrust it in their faces, all the while wearing a wide-eyed expression and grunting like a monkey?

Con–I was going to say something about the potential for getting committed to a psych ward, but if we’re talking about NYC and L.A., using a confused species stuffed animal in an ardent display of self-defense is hardly the weirdest thing you’ll see in a five-minute stroll through the subway.

Back to my original query: at what age can a child handle constructive criticism? My answer: it doesn’t matter. Common sense and the timing of life will work it all out. So I’m resolved to, absent the presence of danger to self/character/morals, be unabashedly positive (or at least enigmatically sarcastic) about everything my kids do.

Also, Mousebat the musical and Mousebat the off-Broadway play are both going into production.

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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, and musician. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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