Our injured turtle (as expected) has taken a turn for the worse.
While I knew it was a gamble this little guy would survive at all, I didn’t think watching his slow, gruelling death would be quite so painful and upsetting for the children.
A couple of things I have learned during this exercise.
1) I wish I had never promised the kids the turtle would not die. I believe I used “Not on our watch! Right guys?” a few times and probably included a high five or two and in retrospect realize that was a terrible, empty promise I had no way of keeping. With each day he becomes weaker, I promise that each day he survives he gets a little bit stronger. What is wrong with me?
2) Kids are amazing negotiators. Our eight year old neighbour arrives daily with crocodile tears begging us to take the turtle inside at least for the winter. She uses pleas like, “Well you don’t want him to die do you?” and other amazingly skilful sales tactics which have me wandering off my nightly turtle watching shift shaking my head thinking, “She’s right. Why don’t I just let him live in our house like a common house pet? I certainly don’t want him to die, do I?”
3) Kids can scheme better than most adults I know. My daughters and the neighbours’ kids have a code word on the phone that means, “meet at the turtle to discuss.” They call each other which I don’t want to be the one to give it away but this totally blows their cover as they shout out, “Mom, what are the numbers to Alex’s phone number? Say them slowly…” The phone rings, the child on the other end answers and I hear three words, “Butter. It. Up.” And they’re off.
4) Asking my daughter’s kindergarten teacher to use the turtle as a teaching tool about caring for an animal and perhaps a deeper discussion about grief, death and dying did not go as I had hoped. I received an interesting look and a response that suggested the kids would, among other grotesque things, “poke it with a pencil until it died before the end of the first day.” So, that’s a no then?
5) My eight year old daughter had her own plan that involved setting up a series of turtle daycares with class members who were assigned two week care giving stints in their homes. I received a few calls from parents asking when it was their turn to be stuck with the mandatory class turtle patrol and reminded that according to my daughter, I would be paying for all of the supplies, food and had an aquarium (I do not have an aquarium) to transport the turtle. One Dad asked where the turtle’s permanent home was going to be after his two weeks were up (again, as per Hanna).
Heaven? My living room?