I was sitting on the back porch after dinner the other night, mapping out our hectic schedule for the coming week and watching the kiddos play on their swing set. It was shortly after one of our many recent rains, and my youngest was digging in the mud. I was not looking forward to the cleanup I'd have to do later in the evening.
A few minutes of digging went by when I heard a happy shriek, and he came trotting over to me with his hands folded together, cupping -- what I could only imagine by the look on his face -- something awesome.
"Mom!" He said. "Check it out!"
I smiled and started to ask him what he'd found, when he opened his hands and dropped a huge, fat, muddy earthworm right into my lap.
I screeched and flailed my arms, jumping out of my chair as if the worm was made of liquid fire, sending the poor thing flying across the patio (which my son thought was hilarious). I grabbed a napkin from the table and began to wipe the muck off my legs, while all four kids squatted in a circle around the now-paralyzed (OK, dead) worm. My oldest got a stick and started poking at it, prompting several eeewwwwwwwwws and giggles from his brother and sisters and, in that moment, I sensed an opportunity. Pulling out my phone, I Googled earthworms and we proceeded to learn about the squirmy creature -- what they do, where they live, what different worms look like. We looked at pictures while I tried to stem my squeamishness. We learned that there are several thousand species of worms, and that some worms can live up to eight years. We learned that they eat dead plant material, and their best defense against ninjas (the 6-year-old's question) is burrowing deep into the soil. By the end of the evening, we had unearthed all sorts of information about worms that we'd never have thought to research before.
Children have an uncanny knack for finding magic in everything around them. Sometimes it's really easy for us, as parents, to forget that to a 6-year-old, the whole world is an adventure. I know that I often lose that sense of wide-eyed wonder, especially with the rush and chaos that is being a mother. I spend a lot of time worrying about bills and schedules and the daily minutia of life and I neglect to take a breath and see the world from a four-foot-tall point of view. That day simply reminded me that the small stuff is magical and important. It's the small stuff that will create lifetime memories for your kids.
Think back to your own childhood. What are your most comforting memories? The big, expensive vacations you took, or playing every week in the local swimming pool? Do you think more about what sorts of loot you brought home from a friend's birthday party, or do you remember riding bikes with your friends through your neighborhood on sunny summer nights? Which was more impactful to you -- the television shows you watched, or that time you figured out how to build a rocket using everything your mom would let you pilfer from her kitchen? The little things, the basic, creative, educational things are the memories that stick.
So, the earthworm ('Squishy', as named by my children) didn't make it through the night, but the lessons we all learned about him and his buddies will stick with my children for a long time. And, to my dismay, I have no doubt that he has many surviving friends and family in our little yard... a good number of which my 6-year-old will likely find and drop in my lap.
A few cool sites we found for researching gross stuff like worms:
Kasey Ferris is a freelance writer and mother-of-five. She eats too many Oreos and thinks life is much better when you're laughing. Find her at facebook.com/KaseyFerrisWrites.