Our children are at an age where they are enamored with living things. Particularly things that move. Like animals. Or bugs.
They are totally intrigued by anything that creeps and crawls or flies. For hours (and I literally mean hours) they will spend poking and prodding and generally observing whatever bug was unlucky enough to be caught by their little hands.
I've tried to impress upon them the importance of being GENTLE with all creatures and although I do my best to see what they are up to, every so often, they will surprise me with a catch that I did not detect.
This morning, the kids were all playing in the backyard, when all of a sudden, someone started screaming. From the sounds of it, I thought they had fallen off the top of the slide and suffered a compound fracture of their tibia.
Fortunately, that wasn't the case.
It turns out, they had been digging in the yard and uncovered an earthworm.
Oh, how our kids loved this earthworm.
They named it, Casey. Ernie. Oscar. Tom. Daisy. Something or other.
All of them took turns holding it. Petting it. Talking to it.
For the first half hour, I told them to PLEASE be gentle and stop touching it. Sometime around the second hour, I asked that they PLEASE put it back in the ground so that it could go back to it's family.
Surely, Casey. Ernie. Oscar. Tom. Daisy. had little babies waiting for it in the soil and those little babies were hungry and perhaps a little scared wondering when Mommy/Daddy earthworm was going to come back with some nice organic matter to eat?
Sometime around the third hour, I lost track of what the kids were doing. I was cleaning up from lunch and trying to fold laundry. At one point, I noticed that Carolyn was filling up her sand pail with water and a short while later, she came in looking for a paper towel so she could dry her earthworm off, after it's bath.
Another 10 minutes passed and my daughter came in to the house looking quite forlorn. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that her worm had stopped moving. When I caught a glimpse of the worm, who she had tried to resuscitate with her Junior Doctor's Kit, it was already starting to dry up and wither, I felt guilty that I hadn't done a better job of prying the earthworm from her loving grasp before it met it's demise.
Taking a deep breath, I began to explain to my four-year-old that the earthworm had gone to the great dirt pile in the sky. I told her that if we handle bugs too much, they leave us and join God.
Carolyn thought about this for a moment and then said, "You know Mom, I don't think he like being tickled a whole lot."
This got me to thinking ... maybe the kids do need a pet.
Although, I'd be willing to bet Oliver the Cat is MIGHTY thankful that he is in a pet store and not in a house where he would be bathed and tickled by four-year-olds, whenever their mother wasn't looking.