Most kids have a natural curiosity and interest in Nature and all living things, I would assume.
My kids are not ‘most kids’. Like most kids my kids love all living things too, most especially, but not limited to, dogs, reptiles, arachnids, amphibians and bugs. But when I say love them, I mean they really LOVE them! Like bordering on an obsession kind of love.
Bear watching a Daddy Longlegs.
Many a Summer day has been spent unearthing tiny creepy crawlies from their garden homes to observe them and “play” with them. Our adventures in entomology and herpetology began back in the day when Pups was but a wee lass (yes, I said wee lass) and she began collecting, freezing and pinning different types of bugs while researching their names and their life cycles in the many books she had collected over time (she was an early reader) on animals and insects. This was also when her hobby for frog “hunting” (not for eating purposes) began.
She would spend hours during our Summer holidays walking around the edge of the lake at our cottage, or crouching at the edge of the swampy pond on my aunt’s property, for frogs at various points in their life cycle, from egg to tadpole, to full grown amphibian. Of course where there are frogs there also lives a tremendous amount of bugs (who, incidentally, would eat her alive) and whom she could collect and observe as well. She would often emerge victorious, after half the day had gone by, with a tiny (or giant) frog gently
trapped cupped in her hands.
Pups was the first to express such an avid scientific curiosity for how the cycle from tadpole to frog happened and what types of bugs, sorry ‘insects’, existed in the World. But she would not be the last. Bean very quickly wanted in on the frog capturing business while Bear looked on with envy, intense interest, and a desperate want to be included.
When the lakes and ponds are unavailable my children will settle for city bugs, often snails and beetles (yes, I do realize that snails are from the crustacean family). But if they are lucky they will find > caterpillars! Created so tiny and fuzzy and, I guess (as my kids would say) “cute” that they are actually irresistible. Did mother nature play a cruel joke on these fragile creatures by making them so colourful and slow moving and most often found at kid level? Yes, I think she did.
Upon discovery by my children their brief future (as an adopted member of the family named with an obvious caterpillar type name like “Johnny” or “Sam”) is inescapable (until I secretly release them from the confines of their temporary glass jar homes in the late Summer evenings). Course, if you think they have it bad, if you are one of those “respect and love all living things” types, then you will be glad you were not born a worm or potato bug in the vicinity of my children. Worms are picked up and played with, stretched and poked and sometimes (by mistake…I’m sure) left out on the hot sidewalk to cook to a crisp. Potato bugs try to run, and man I’ll tell you, am I always rooting for them, but even they too are eventually captured and rolled back and forth on the palms of my kids hands while in their protective curled up position. A marble AND a bug all in one! Who could ask for anything more!?
The luckiest of the ‘captured’ creatures are by far the snails. They are collected and immediately named. Often an obvious snail type name like “Snaily” or, you know, “Bonnie”.
Then the snails are brought back to the yard where they are set free in my garden to destroy all the hard work I did at planting those lovely flowers and yummy berries. It got to the point last year where the snail obsession became so detrimental to my garden that I had to set a limit on the amount of snails brought home. Eventually I had to ban snails altogether Can you imagine banning snails? Who would have thought I would ever do that!?
Still, I can’t help but appreciate the tenacity from which my children find the ‘awesome’ in all living things and their want to observe those living things…and even some dead things.
No…really, even some dead things.
Yup, once, about a year ago, Bear found an old dead and rotting rat on the ground near a park. He picked up that old and rotting rat with his bare hands without any hesitation and showed it to me. Yes I was totally disgusted and yes I ran at Bear and shouted at him to drop it, at which point I took him directly to the washroom to clean his hands with hot water and lots and LOTS AND LOTS of soap! But underneath the panic and the “Ew, maggots, worms, germs…” I was honestly proud of him. What other kid would look at that dead rat and see something interesting, not scary or gross. What other kid would not be bothered to pick it up and observe its body in its decomp.
(Side note: The remainder of that day was spent explaining that while we can look at dead animals, we can’t ever touch them because we might get sick.)
And though I am grossed out by all this (a defect in my personality from the perspective of my children) > I am still incredibly impressed and proud of my awesome and weird kids. Where I wince at the thought of holding a snail or freezing a still very much alive bug, my children are unfazed. They want to know more about these creatures, they want to understand them and observe them. They are not held back from learning and exploring the world by our societies self-created ideas and fears of what is gross and creepy.
Yes I can proudly proclaim that my children love gross, slimy and creepy crawly things. They are avid explorers and driven young scientist, searching out the poor unfortunate souls that never see them coming. Not allowing their curiosities to be stunted or limited by the “ew’s” and “that’s so gross!” comments of others.
And I love it. My kids are so cool. Cooler than me, for sure.