I’ve been invited to visit a snakery today. Apparently my children have been collecting harmless small snakes and putting them inside the old roofless silo. When I objected to this practice on the grounds of cruelty they said, “But we feed them! Worms and bugs and things!” I pointed out that the snakes would grow and would need more substantial fare and should probably be hunting their own dinners. There was a lot of backtalk. I’m going out today to make sure the snakes are freed from their prison.
The best place to see animals is often from the car. And while it’s easy to get complacent driving on these country roads, enjoying the ride and the giant sky with enormous clouds, it’s when you get comfortable that things jump out at you. Deer mostly. But also skunks and ground hogs, raccoons and cats and foxes and rabbits. Opossums don’t jump they just suddenly appear lying in the middle of the road playing opossum.
Looking out for animals is a welcome distraction from the noise of my children fighting in the back seats and usually they’d much rather shout at me, “Didn’t you see him?” when I didn’t notice tapetum lucidum glowing in the grass beside the road. When there is an especially large herd, or there is some seasonal change, or oh-my-gosh-a-fawn! we stop and goggle a minute or two.
Traveling down the road to home last night, just after sundown around 9 p.m., the asphalt was littered with toads. Some had already been squished, but most of them were alive and sitting there like little lords. Only one of them made any attempt to move. It seems late in the year for mating season, but I don’t know a lot about toads – maybe they do this all the time? Were they just soaking up the radiating heat from the blacktop or were they trying to cross?
What I’m saying is: my kids and I like the animals. I especially like the animals I don’t have to feed and whose poop I don’t have to clean up. I’m going to make an excellent grandmother one day.
I also love that my kids are growing up with this closeness, this interacting with the natural world. It’s not like we’re out in the wild, wild woods, but it’s just enough that they are curious and not icked out, just scared enough to be wise and they really care about habitats and the creatures who live in them. My oldest child picks up litter in the state park of his own accord when we hike together. It makes me all misty-eyed.
When they were tiny I had a goal of not passing on my own fear of slimy things (because I need someone to remove the slugs and snails from my garden) but I had little idea of how, with my limited city-girl knowledge and experience, they would ever become comfortable with nature.
But exposure and opportunity and eschewing overprotectiveness and sharing their excitement and hiding my squeamishness has made these things happen. It’s limiting t.v. and video games. It’s giving them time. It’s allowing them to wander in a relatively safe environment. It’s turning a deaf ear to cries of, “I’m bored.” It’s giving them opportunity and not intervening at every turn. It’s letting them figure things out.
If it sounds like I’m patting myself on the back, it’s because I am. I make a lot of mistakes, but I think I’m getting this right.