My kids “saved” a beetle today. Why? Because they are kids.
We went for a walk semi-early in an attempt to get ahead of the heatwave. We were only one door down when my middle son, Paxton–who blog readers know feels deeply, his compassion and heartbreak eternal–squealed with dismay. Oh no!, he kept saying, until Kayden and I and the stroller made our way back to him. He was crouched down, sullen, staring a belly-up beetle in the…well, in the something. Fix him, Mommy!, Kayden yelled. She had joined Paxton’s sense of urgency as soon as she realized the beetle’s legs were moving and he was, in fact, alive but stranded mid-sidewalk. Together, we found a leaf and carefully turned him back onto his legs. Paxton then decided to shade him with the leaf and insisted we check on him when we finished our walk.
Twenty minutes later as we rounded the corner back to our house, the kids ran ahead to check on their friend, now named Jason (of all things!). And there was Jason, back on his back, still on the sidewalk. Mommy! MOMMY! Both kids were distraught now at the thought of this beetle unable to get to shelter and unable to cool down. I picked up the leaf and gentle lifted him to my neighbor’s yard. We placed him in a shady spot both under a tree and near my neighbor’s irrigation system. We agreed the damp, cool place would help him thrive.
Fast forward to after lunch. I needed a few kitchen staples–and an iced coffee–so I shuttled the three littles to Whole Foods. Somehow, Jason came up in conversation while we were gone, so the second we returned home, the kids ran to our neighbor’s yard and found him, on his back again. Before I could finish putting the groceries away, Kayden and Paxton made a little eco-system out of an old Tupperware container: they stuffed it with small twigs and leaves and grass and dirt, they poured a little water in the bottom, and they gently placed Jason inside using a sand shovel. He’s our pet! We will protect him and take care of him!, they proclaimed. I did not, still do not, have the heart to tell them that Jason, their beloved pet beetle, is already gone, that his legs haven’t wiggled since we placed him under that tree. They saw this creature, no bigger than a peanut and something that would have startled them if they found it in the house, and they cared for it. They nurtured it. They loved it, instinctively.
Kids default to love; we model hate. This is nothing new. Countless bloggers and authors have explored this very subject. But today, the day after learning of the terrible tragedy in Nice, I was overcome with this notion as I watched my kids react, feel, and love.
I have no intention of getting soap-boxey or political. I have no intention of changing your belief system or of persuading you to seek a way to save the world. The world, unfortunately, cannot be saved. Our kids, though, we can save. We cannot save them from harm or from tragedy or from reality. So much is out of our control. We can save them from their own hate. Model love for your kids. Model positivity. Model coming to the rescue. Model forgiveness. If these become our default reactions, our instincts, they just may remain the traits our kids bring into adulthood, too.
And, when you really don’t know what else to do, when the world and people’s actions stop making sense, let your kids house and feed a pet beetle named Jason that never really had a chance in the first place.