Appreciating All Critters Through Example

“The way a child discovers the world constantly replicates the way science began.  You start to notice what’s around you, and you get very curious about how things work.  How things interrelate.  It’s as simple as seeing a bug that intrigues you.  You want to know where it goes at night; who its friends are; what it eats.” ~David Conenberg

My mantra the past several years has become: Teaching the youth good habits is far easier than asking them to break bad habits when they are older.

Indeed, children are our future stewards, and exposing them to the natural world is not only fun, but also our responsibility.  It’s far easier, and more exciting, to care and protect things that we know about and are meaningful to us!

It’s amazing how children are truly a product of their surroundings and upbringings.  For example, my mother is deathly allergic to bees, and has been absolutely terrified of them since the first time she was stung and rushed to the hospital.  This fear for her is somewhat understandable, as she has a life-threatening reaction to the venom.  However, I grew up watching this response in my mother and became terrified of bees as well, jumping and screaming whenever one came near me.  It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I started examining this unspoken communication, these signals my mother was sending me, and decided I would no longer fear bees. Instead, I remain calm when a bee is near, send it my loving energy and ask it kindly to move onto the next best thing.  In turn, my daughter  Hadlie has been watching my peaceful reaction to the bees, and responds exactly the same way.  She laughs at her friends, and even her grandmother, when they get panicky with the first site of a bee.  She tells them, “It won’t hurt you, just relax so you don’t scare it, or it might sting you!”  (She is so wise.)

My daughter’s affection for critters expands to numerous taxonomy, all winning her gentle touch.  At our last home, my daughter would run out to the car every morning before we left for the day,  to “rescue” all the snails that for some reason, would hang out near the wheels of my Subaru.  She didn’t want any of them to get squished, so she would gently place them in the garden, (where they had plenty to eat of course)! 

My father has enjoyed vermicomposting (worm composting) for years.  When we visit my family, Hadlie is right out there with grandpa feeding and sorting the worms and looking after them.  Whenever we go for hikes, camping trips, or even play in the backyard, my daughter seems to notice and find the most interesting bugs!  She will hold them, examine them, maybe build them a home out of moss and twigs.  She had an entire complex for those snails she loved so much, complete with yoga studio, grocery store, fine dining restaurant, and a special room for “mating.”  (I have taken a plethora of biology classes; she knows about reproduction).

We both don’t care for critters in our home, but we could never kill anything.  Instead, we “capture” the spiders (usually the culprit) and release them outside.  (Okay, so maybe spiders aren’t my “favorite animal,” but I would never let on!)

I’m so thankful that I have been able to instill in my daughter a love and appreciation for all the living things on this planet, and I am sure she will pass that same mindset of gentleness, caring and love to her own children one day.  After all, life is about attitude, and choice.

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