Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I have a difficult relationship with nature. In fact, I've often thought that the only time I'll be completely comfortable with it will be when I'm buried six feet under a bed of soft green grass, hopefully shaded by a beautiful old oak in a rolling, park-like cemetery. I like to think of kids running and playing around me, teenagers sneaking off to make-out nearby, and artists sitting on my headstone for a quiet and inspirational place to draw or write.

In the meantime, whenever I'm outside I'm terribly conscious of my surroundings, and not in a pleasant way. It's hot. It's muggy. It's cold. The sky is spitting at me. The wind is beginning to get distracting. What was that sound? Are there animals around? I'm a little afraid of pretty much every wild animal, up close. Have you seen the beak on a robin? Looks painful. Ohmigosh is that a bug?!!

You get the idea.

Still, I make an effort for my kids' sakes. I get excited by little natural discoveries, hide my fears when necessary, and even take them outside from time to time.

With mixed results. My girls enjoy being outside. And they don't seem afraid of it. But nor is Ellie particularly interested in our local fauna.

A couple of weeks ago, on our way out to the car after gymnastics, we found ourselves following a small toad.

"Ellie, look! A frog! Hopping down the sidewalk!"

The poor beast was, indeed, frantically trying to escape from us while being thwarted at every hop by an inconveniently placed retaining wall.

Ellie said, "There is is," without really looking, and lengthened her stride a little as she stepped over the toad.

Completely uninterested. Huh. Well, she was pretty tired after gymnastics.

A couple of days later, we were walking down a sidewalk next to some tall designer grasses on our way to the swimming pool.

"Oh, girls, look! A snail, right here on the sidewalk! See how he's got his shell right on his back?"

Ada was ambling over to take a look, but Ellie was closer. She reached down, plucked up the snail by its little shell, and, again without really looking, tossed it into the landscaping as she continued on her way.

Weird. Is she protecting me? Does my forced enthusiasm read as fear? Of a snail or toad? Surely not. I mean, a squirrel or dragonfly, sure. But a snail that's not even trying to touch me? Nah.


Rob Monroe said...

I'll take over nature duties if you would like. At this point we can not keep Abby away from critters and rocks and such. I'm nervous about the day we run into a snake at the park or something.

I will agree with your idea that Ellie is simply protecting you from the snails of the world!

Beachcomber said...

Carys is terrified of all bugs. All things that move on their own with the exception of dogs and cats, actually. We're hoping it'll pass. We reinforce to her that these things - flies, beetles, etc., are friends of nature and do important jobs. But so far, all we get in response is, "No! NO! NOOO!!!" Kids (especially toddlers) are complicated.

Sarahlynn said...

Rob, I would really appreciate that. You can take over nature and your wife can take over having the particular talk that she's uniquely qualified to have with the kids (unlike you, Paul, and me). What can I do? Hmm. Kids, today we're going to learn how to obsessively plan a vacation!

Beach, have I told you that I think your daughter's name is beautiful? I love it. And I'm with her on the "No! NO! NOOO!!!"

HiddenChicken said...

I can totally get behind you on the bugs thing. In fact, Ragsy once put a teeny little snail in his mouth and it almost made me gag to pull it out. I think I was a little excessive in its destruction since I threw it in the disposal and turned it on. (I know, I'm cruel.)

Yesterday I let Ragsy play in the rain, which he loved. When it was time to go inside, he wanted to be carried. So I picked him up and took him inside to the living room. I noticed his shoes had left some mud on my pants and went to brush it off only to bring with the mud a teeny slug that had apparently been transferred from his shoe. Again, excessive destruction impulse - it was promptly tossed into the disposal. I don't even know if it got ground up. It was only a few millimeters long. Yuck!

Sarahlynn said...

Ew, ew, ew!

I've not gone the disposal route (yet). Then again, I've never found a slug in the house!

But once, on an outdoor playdate when Ellie was about 6 months old, I saw a small spider on her back. I freaked out so obviously (though silently!) that one of the other moms reached over and brushed it off. Oops.

flatflo said...

Those that know me well know that I am pretty comfortable out in the woods, in and amongst nature. There is one major exception, tho. I have problems even saying the word, and I will not type it. But they are perfectly benign little wiggly thing that live in dirt and make good compost. After heavy rains, I walk very carefully, trying not to see those things that have come out yet wanting to avoid them completely. Pretty hard to do, actually. I like plants and growing things, but I'm limited to container planting. They are my kryptonite. I can't even be teased about it. Completely irrational, I know, but I've had the phobia since childhood and I've given up on conquering it. My sanity is worth not considering it.
If anybody out there ever uses this against me, I will retaliate!