I went for a walk with my children yesterday.
The sun was shining for a bit, and while it was windy, I figured it could blow away the cabin fever.
As we walked, I struck up conversational topics about the different things we encountered. I like to do that from time to time, I feel like it gives my kids something tangible to connect life lessons to-so they can actually see the lessons in action. On this particular day, the topic was bugs.
Why do bugs crawl? And where are they going?
Do they live in houses or in the trees?
Which bugs bite?
Do they like ice cream? Did I mention my kids were 4 and 18m? So that was a valid and important question for their judgement on the topic.
The concept of the value of Life also came into question. I can’t remember, now-sitting here, the exact way it fell into our discussion’s lap, but there it was: Are bugs’ lives important? And at first you say yes-all Life is important. It is one of the first lessons people teach you to teach them. I went through my Parenting 101 speech outlining the preciousness of each life-lacing it with the connection each bug has to another; larger bugs eat smaller bugs and bugs help plants grow and so on. Next came the Mecca of all parenting lessons for teaching children about bugs; if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. That was about the time I noticed that my oldest child strolled right passed a bumble bee sitting on the sidewalk.
It was huge, as most bumble bees are, and if it had been in flight it’s buzz surely would have been deafening.
But it wasn’t flying.
It was just sitting there, on the concrete.
My eyes darted from one child to the next hoping they had, in fact, not seen the fuzzy behemoth which was now showing signs of alertness. It must have been picked off by a bird or fell victim to the chill in the breeze. It was clear that neither child saw the black and yellow monster. All at once my heart felt the surge of adrenaline as I made the split second decision to overstep my youngest child, cutting across him and nearly launching him across the lawn which followed the sidewalk, and stomped on the unsuspecting bee as hard as I could while maintaining as much subtlety as possible. Thor would have been proud of the might my shoe had upon the bee that was salivating at the sight of my ripe and pink offspring frolicking, unaware…according to my wild, protective, imagination.
I gave my foot a decisive twist, feeling the bee’s body compress and smear against my shoe, pivoting on the confidence that I had undoubtedly just saved my children from certain death.
Thankfully, my children were relatively oblivious to what I had done, but as I lifted my foot to continue walking, I could hear the residual crunch of the bee’s body and I asked myself that exact question: What had I done?
It dawned on me that I had completely contradicted my speech on the value of life. Apparently, not all life was important.
Apparently it wasn’t “leave it alone and it will leave you alone”.
Based on the slight stick my shoe had against the sidewalk, as a result of the bee’s innards, my overactive mother-imagination was more important than the bumble bee sitting alone on the sidewalk on a breezy late Spring day.
I was able to reinsert myself into my children’s discussion, but I had to split my thoughts between that and the complexity of why I had completely annihilated the bee.
We rounded the corner of the block and approached our house. I held the door for the kids who trotted inside to pick up whatever activity they had dropped in favor of the walk, and I let out a long, motherly sigh.
It was the sigh that knew I was not going to ever mention the incident to the kids. By the time it would have any meaning to them, it would be meaningless. When it was time for them to dwell on why society reserves the right to decide which lives are precious and which lives are worthless, me stepping on a bumble bee would be trivial. On the other hand, if I sat them down and told them what happened and why I felt the primal, instinctive fear-urge-to protect them from a potential bee sting that may have or may not have led to an allergic reaction; it would have been so far over their heads, their hair wouldn’t even move. I knew that this whole experience was one of those defining mother moments. I would carry the weight of today’s lesson on my shoulders and simply watch my kids grow up waiting for them to come to the same realization. After all, isn’t that what parenting is all about? We protect them from our worst fears until they are able to face and deduce those fears on their own?
Sadly, I don’t think anyone told that bumble bee.