“What’s this, Daddy?” My son rushes in excitedly from outside. I’m not a scientist, but the small, wriggling, slimy thing on his fingertip looks like a baby worm to me. He names it “Mr. Tiny-Worm”. Parents are supposed to be able to teach their children about stuff. About animals and nature. Even about hard stuff like friendship and loss. If we don’t know how to teach these things, we have to learn.
“Lets… er, put him on the table and have a look at him.” I say, worried about Mr. Tiny-Worm’s safety on my Son’s finger. “I’ll just clean the table first. It’s a bit sticky.”
We admire Mr. Tiny-Worm together and speak about the wonder of nature.
“Mr. Tiny-Worm is my friend.” My son says. I fill up with parent emotion, my face goes all squashed up and I can’t speak for a moment.
“Shall we see if we can find any more little friends?” I suggest as we go back outside. My son giggles excitedly. I’m a great parent.
“Daddy?” My son asks later.
“Where’s Mr. Tiny-Worm?”
I try to remember.
I don’t know whether it was the cleaning products or the proximity to the radiator. Like I said, I’m not a scientist. But when we find Mr. Tiny-Worm on the corner of the dining table, he’s very, very still. And a bit dry looking.
“Is Mr. Tiny-Worm sleeping?” My son asks anxiously.
“Er… yes. I think he is.” I say. I pick up Mr. Tiny-Worm, hoping to place him back in the garden to carry on “sleeping”. Half of him stays stuck to the table.
My son’s reaction is heart breaking.
After hugs and tears I talk about finding another Mr. Worm. “But what if that one breaks too?” He asks tremulously.
“Well…” I start. I have no idea what to say next. After a long, excruciating, stammering pause, I finally tell him about the importance of taking good care of animals, and letting them go safely back into the wild. Not putting them on the table near the radiator and forgetting about them. “Yes Daddy.” He says tearfully. “You have to be more careful.”
“Yes.” I nod.