Today at school, one of the kids found a painted turtle over by the playground fence. It was just a baby—about the size of a half dollar. When I arrived to pick up the kids, everyone was clustered around the bucket containing the wee, irate turtle. It kept trying to climb the plastic sides and sliding down and starting over again. The capturer’s mother had arrived and agreed to bring it home and try to raise it.
“No fair!” hmphed Chickadee. “How come HE gets to keep the turtle?”
“Because HE found it,” I answered. Then I grinned at one of the teachers and added, “and also because his mom is a lot nicer than yours.”
“Well THAT’S for sure,” she grumped.
You’re not supposed to agree with your mother when she cracks a joke about how mean she is, you know. No good can come of that.
Unable to stop myself—even as I realized that the kids were hearing nothing but WAH WAH WAH ala Charlie Brown’s teacher—I launched into a lecture on the way to the car about how animals are best off in their natural habitat. That turtle was very cute, yes, but he was SO LITTLE and did either of them have any idea how to take care of a baby turtle? Or what a turtle eats? No? Me either. It’s not a kitten, you know. What if the turtle’s mommy was right around the corner and looking for him right now? Etc.
As I turned the car towards home I realized I now wanted a “positive wildlife experience” to counterbalance this… and preferrably before either of the kids could think to ask if the baby turtle was going to eat catfood and then die.
I had a lightbulb moment: Yesterday I’d noticed the geese had returned to a tiny pond on our route home. I was fairly certain I’d seen at least half a dozen fuzzy goslings at the water’s edge. Perfect!
Me: Hey, guys! I want to show you something on the way home.
Both: What? What is it, Mama? WHAT?
Chickadee: Are we getting ice cream?
Monkey: Is it another turtle??
Me: Heh… ummm… no. And no. It’s an animal thing, though.
Chickadee: Are we getting a dog???
Monkey: I don’t like it when dogs try to lick me.
Me: NO! Stop. Okay. Quiz time! What do some animals do in the winter?
Chickadee: Go to the north pole!
Me: Wait, WHERE do they go, Chickie?
Chickadee: TO SEE SANTA! *hysterics*
Me: Monkey, where do some of the birds go?
Monkey: OH! FLORIDA!
Me: Uhhh… yeah. Okay. They go south. Maybe to Florida. So then what happens in the spring?
Chickadee: THEY GO TO THE BEACH!
Monkey: No no! They come BACK!
Me: Good, Monkey! They come back in the spring! And THEN what do they do?
Monkey: EAT FRENCH FRIES! *hysterics*
Chickadee: WEAR HATS! *hysterics*
Me: C’mon, guys.
Chickadee: They HATCH BABIES!
Me: RIGHT! YES! GOOD! THAT!
Chickadee: Oh! Did you see baby birds?
Monkey: Can we get one??
Me: Okay, look out Monkey’s window.
*Much to the chagrin of the cars behind me, I slowed down at the pond, just in time for us to see Mama and Papa Goose leading their offspring up onto the bank. And there was much oohing and aahing.*
Chickadee: Awwww, they’re so cute and fuzzy.
Monkey: Well I wanted a turtle.
Chickadee: Maybe when they grow up, they’ll EAT turtles.
Me: OH LOOK WE’RE HOME. No more nature! Everyone inside!