It would be nice if my boy was into nature. Sometimes it seems my best hope of getting him to learn about natural history is to direct him to some website game about birds or animals. Oh yes your kids will learn all about penguins at that online club…
Sometimes I unplug the kids and suggest we go Look For Nature. They stand in the garden, faces pale, blinking in the unaccustomed light.
“It’s cold,” my girl whimpers.
“Can we go in now?” My boy asks.
I look to the heavens hoping to see a pigeon fly by, so that I can point and exclaim,” Look a bird? Does anyone know which species?”
We live in a country town, we see few pigeons, like the foxes they’ve relocated to the city to get more action and eat better takeaways.
“Let’s look for bugs!” I exclaim. “First one to find a bug is the winner!”
I look enthusiastically under a rock, “Earwigs love to hide under things.” I explain. To the rock.
My son kicks a deflated ball across the lawn, if he found an earwig hiding undereath it he doesn’t say.
This isn’t working.
“First one to see a spider eats it!”
Amazingly this rule change works. My kids look at me, then they start to move at once. My girl squeals as she runs across the grass, she starts digging around among the daffodils. My boy stars rooting through a hedge.
I don’t know what to do if I find a spider, but I’m looking too.
“Have you found one yet?” I ask.
“You’ll find one first!” My daughter assures me, laughing viciously.
“Do spiders like trees?” Asks my boy.
I talk some tosh about the best location for spiders webs. We are all happy. We are under the sun, looking for nature, and my children are learning Important Stuff as they soak up the vitamin D.
Then it happens.
“A SPIDER!” My boy screams.
“You have to EAT it!” His sister informs him.
“No way!” He yells.
I hurry over, and we stare at the spider on the patio slab. It’s scrurrying towards the fence as if running for it’s spider life. It knows the rules – nature means eat or be eaten, nature is cruel.
My four year old stomps. We all stare at the crushed dead spider.
I wonder how to explain to my children the importance of life and death, our duty of protection to the natural world. I decide to save this lesson for another day.
“It’s cold, should we go in?” I say.