NOTE: No animals were harmed in the following accounts. But no animals were left untouched, uninspected or unstudied either. It is the author’s belief that the best way for children to gain an appreciation for nature is to interact with it.
SECOND NOTE: One child was harmed by an animal during the following accounts.
To the robin that built a nest outside our door while we were on vacation:
In our absence, I’m sure the wooden beam in our treed backyard seemed safe and accommodating. You probably didn’t even notice the light sabers beneath you, or the water blasters stacked on the bench. And I can see how those brightly colored balls might have been confusing. Did they look like flowers or vegetables?
Indeed, when we came home, we were shocked to see the mess of your nest — scattered grass and droppings of mud — on our back porch.
“A bird made a nest here?” I said. “What was she thinking?”
Just then, you looked down, and I was sure you were making angry faces at me. A short 10 minutes later, the boys ran through the back door like bulls released from pens. They took up their light sabers and chased each other. The youngest one blasted potted plants with water from his gun. And although I asked them to stay away from your area, let’s face it, their voices can be heard a mile away.
When your mate returned with food and the two of you scuffled in a nearby pine tree, I knew what you were saying: “You expect me to live here? What kind of bird do you think I am?”
Don’t worry, the worst the boys will do is stare at you through binoculars, make chirping sounds near your nest and scatter what they think you’d like to eat (frozen waffles?) around the yard. They mean well.
To the frogs with funny names:
It’s called a net, that thing with holes in it and with a long green handle on one end. Hop into the net and you’re a goner. Unless you enjoy a brief stay in a frog aquarium, where a 4-year-old will press his nose against the glass and give you funny names until his parents convince him to let you go, or you evolve before our eyes and escape. (I’ll have you know, Hoppy Donut Frog, Lindell cried all the way home about your sneaky getaway. And when we found the bullfrog later, Lindell squealed, “Look at how much Hoppy Donut Frog has grown!”)
But the bullfrog (named Hoppy Cookie Frog), well, he’s the one you should feel sorry for. The boys built the Roman Colosseum out of sand, filled it with water and tried to find another bullfrog for Hoppy Cookie to battle. While the children ate lunch, Dustin let Hoppy Cookie free. He seemed disappointed.
To the butterfly named Flying Butter:
Oh, Flying Butter! Owen caught you on his pinkie finger and you stayed for almost an hour. He ate with you there, fed the ducks with you there and even ran through the backyard with you there. You were like a decorative ring on his finger. You could have left at any moment, but you chose to stay (even when that dragonfly landed on Owen’s other hand). When it was finally your time to leave, you caught the wind, and we watched you fly across the lake. Owen was both sad and happy.
To the fish with multiple hooks in its mouth:
“Mom, we caught another bass!” they yelled. “Mom, we caught a bass AGAIN!”
That’s when I knew something was up. My dad had been fishing several nights for bass. He caught only one. How had the boys caught multiple gigantic bass in just an hour?
I went to the dock and discovered a nest of baby bass under the water. The boys’ “big fish” was protecting babies. I told the boys to leave that spot alone, and they were delighted when days later we found billions of teeny little black fish. (They scooped up one in a net, of course.)
Unfortunately, somewhere in the lake there is a big bass with several hooks in its mouth who curses my children and the day their dad showed them how to cast a line.
To the leech who caught a boy:
Appreciation sometimes means trapping a frog and then realizing it really wants to be set free. Or, watching a bird fly away because you’ve been too noisy. And, learning that you can’t keep a butterfly.
Granted, all of these lessons come at the expense of some wildlife’s peace and quiet. But education (on both sides) also comes from pain and torment inflicted by wildlife.
When Lindell chased a flock of ducks through the weeds, you, Mr. Leech, took the opportunity to feast on his little toe. Boy, were you surprised, and suddenly more educated, when you emerged from the water and realized what you had caught! I’m not sure who was more shocked: Lindell with a bloodsucking black slug on his toe, or the bloodsucker that had a screaming 4-year old boy stuck to its mouth.
My bet is on the bloodsucker.