Saturday, April 17, 2010

Instinct & the Intersection of Teachable and Moment

How to Explain Instinct to a Six-Year-Old
Me: If you saw a doughnut running across the yard, you would try to catch it and eat it, right?
@: Doughnuts don't run, mommy.
Me: But if doughnuts could run and you saw one in Barbara's yard?
@: I'd catch it and eat it! But mommy, you're still goofy.

Why to Explain Instinct to a Six-Year-Old

This morning, Luke followed his oh-so-doggy instinct and caught a squirrel. It was a baby squirrel. Probably a preteen in the world of squirrel years. Luke had chased the mama squirrel and lost. He turned around to find himself staring at the baby squirrel. The chase was short and fruitful.
See squirrel. See squirrel run. Chase squirrel. Catch squirrel.
Wait! What? I caught it? I've never caught anything.
What do I doooooo?

Uh oh, they're coming toward me. They look concerned.
She's yelling "house!"
Drop the squirrel!
OK, I'm going into the house. You don't have to ask me twice!
What just happened? I actually caught something other than kibble?
Whu huh?
Once I got Luke in the house, my neighbor J and I went to check on little guy. Meanwhile, mama was rightfully losing her squirrel-marbles in a tree across the street. Little guy was breathing, but not looking terribly comfortable. We went over to J's porch to give mama squirrel an opportunity to check on little guy. Mama squirrel maneuvered closer.

Neither of us could decide whether to put little guy out of his misery or give him a chance to recovery. Likewise, neither of us pictured ourselves doing squirrel resuscitation or a Kevorkian routine. After getting over the initial shock, little guy did some hopeful flopping. Or flipping. Maybe both. Mama squirrel maneuvered still closer.

We decided to give little guy time to recover, but were wary of neighborhood crows. I went back to my house, J to his. A bit later I heard a crow going bonkers. Interestingly enough, he was chasing my hawk. Both birds seemed oblivious to the unfolding squirrel drama.

Awhile later, I checked outside and saw mama squirrel near the baby, but a crow even closer. I chased off and cussed out the crow and went looking for a cardboard box. In the 3.217 minutes it took me to procure a box and towel from my garage, Barbara's cat appeared. I cussed out the cat, put the squirrel in the box with a towel and moved him to my porch.

For some reason, I decided liberal use of the f-bomb toward birds and cats would be helpful to little guy. I knew he wouldn't survive, but I didn't want to see him eviscerated on the lawn. Mama squirrel tracked my every move from directly above in the magnolia tree.

Welcome to the Intersection of Teachable and Moment
Shortly after I had set up little guy on the porch, X dropped off @. I told @ he could look in the box from a distance, but he needed to be quiet. He sat on my lap on the lawn while I explained that in the box was a baby squirrel and it would likely die.

@'s first instinct was to be simultaneously angry with Luke and sad for the squirrels. I completely understood. He was upset, but I had to explain the concept of instinct itself.
  • Luke's instinct was to chase.
  • @'s instinct was to be angry with Luke.
  • My instinct was to give mama squirrel a chance to see him before he died.
We were gone for most of the afternoon and when we came home, little guy was no longer moving. @ decided he was sleeping and I opted not to correct him. Once @ was safely snuggled into bed, I attended to the disposition of little guy.

I hope mama squirrel got her chance. I had a week that brought up several remembrances of grief and found myself revisiting feelings of losing N (@'s brother). And then this morning's squirrel escapades found their way into my day. To me, the hawk's visit was no coincidence. It all feels like some sort of closure on the week.

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