WEEK 16: snips & snails

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When I was little, my dad was always bringing small animals into the house. Most of them he found while mowing the yard. I remember spending hours crouched above baby bunnies delicately placed on newsprint. Or tightly clasping giant toads found at dusk while watering flowers—and praying silently not to get peed on.

We never kept these animals; they lived outside. But there was nothing wrong with spending a little time with them, appreciating them for their cuteness or bumpy toad-ness, then returning them to the backyard where they belonged.

This instilled in me a fascination for all creatures (great and small) that continues today—whether it’s pseudo-adopting a box of puppies abandoned in the lot behind out apartment building, or carefully stepping around the dopey garden snails who try each morning to cross the damp sidewalk.

I’ve never been a so-called girlie-girl, but yeah, I’m still a girl. And while the prospect of parenting is daunting regardless of the sex of your child, I’ve had it in my head that parenting a girl would somehow be a tiny bit easier, because yeah, I’m a girl.

But that didn’t matter to my dad. What he saw in me was a little kid who was enchanted by animals. And lucky for me, they didn’t have to be cute animals. We were equal-opportunity animal observers—garter snakes, garden spiders (which we called ‘banana spiders’ for their bright yellow and black markings), toads, baby bunnies, wrens, bats. All of them in our backyard.

Our son won’t grow up in a small town with a big backyard. He won’t live out his entire childhood in the same house—or even the same country. But he will grow up with animals. Hopefully, Sam and I can cultivate the same sense of wonder in our son that my dad did in me, and that eventually, he will know that a giant outdoor world exists, and that he can access it simply by being patient and kind.

{Above: I brought seven garden snails into our kitchen this afternoon for a photo shoot. The one pictured above showed a great deal of personality.}

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