I have no picture. I didn’t want to take one. There is one already etched in my mind. The other evening, we were all packed up in the minivan and off to our friend’s house for a lovely evening to be had. We parked. We started to get out. Then we noticed a HUUUUGE snake crossing the road (no joke!).
I am waaaaay freaked by snakes. Ever since a dream when I was about seven. I just freak out about them. My children, on the other hand, are fascinated by them. Even my two year old. (“I wuuuuuuv snakes, mommy!”)
I noticed myself becoming incredibly nervous. But I decided to engage in a new option: be fascinated. So I shouted to the kiddos in the back, “Hey guys! Look! A huuuuge snake up ahead! It’s crossing the road! Come see!”
My five year old leaped out of his carseat. Brian went to unbuckle our two year old.
I noticed a truck stop by the snake. I assumed they too were admiring this huge snake (that Brian insisted was NOT poisonous). But they weren’t. They were backing up. They tried to run over the snake.
Again and again. He backed up and tried to run over the snake while the snake hissed and tried to attack the truck.
I was in shock. It all happened so quickly — here were my son and I sitting in the front seat of our car now. Me – trying to be fascinated and face my fear of snakes for my kiddos’ delight. My son – over the top excited and entranced by the snake.
Before I could act to turn my son’s gaze from watching, we saw it happen. The truck ran over the snake. It twitched and twitched. “OH my god! He ran over the snake! I’m so sorry! Oh son, I’m so sorry!” My heart ached as I watched the snake laying there. A million things crossed my mind. I have never ever seen someone right in front of me intentionally KILL another living being. I mourned for this snake. AND I DON’T EVEN LIKE SNAKES. I FEAR them. My heart SANK for my son as I pulled him close to me. He was already weeping.
The truck pulled up beside us and gave us a thumbs-up. I felt sick. Physically sick. My son was wailing. A sound came from deep within him that I had never heard before. Mourning. Brian came around and held our son. I took our daughter inside. They prayed for the snake and sent it some healing energy.
I have never seen anyone take a life before. But I’m an adult. My little five year old — he is trying to make sense of the world, seeing that the world is a bit bigger than our sunshine-filled kitchen. Brian was brilliant with how he held our son.
Ironically, later that night, at our friend’s house, after a huge rainstorm that we all watched from the porch, our friend had a “fake snake” (it still made me squirm) that he got from our local zoo. My son and daughter both held it and hugged it. Again my two year old, “I wuuuuv snakes, mommy!” And our five year old hugged it tightly and asked, “Mom, if we go to the zoo and get one of these, can it sit at the table with us and eat dinner?”
That spirit of the that snake might be at our dinner table for a loooong time. That somehow seems right. Both Brian and I talked last night about how we didn’t do enough to get the truck to stop. Shock or not. Maybe we are doing enough in teaching our children that when people do mean things it’s because they are scared. And to help them become “unscared.” Maybe we are doing enough in teaching our children about compassion and a regard for life – whether or not we have “issues” with that life. Maybe we are doing enough by comforting our children in ways that allow them to experience the fullest sense of their emotions…and for it to be OK. That fake snake we will get at the zoo will be a reminder for me of just this.
And as our son was going to bed he said, “Mom, you don’t have to be afraid of snakes. Here’s what i’ll do. Me and dad will tell you if we see a snake if it is poisonous or not. If it’s poisonous, you can stay inside. If it’s not, you can come out. You’ll be safe, mom. I’ll protect you this way.”
I’ll protect YOU this way, my son, by being honest with you, comforting you when you see the cruelty of life, and holding you until a “right response” rises up from within you and respond with offering your unique healing balm to this world.