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  • Writer's picture Jana

Nature or Nurture? No Doubt, it's Nature!

In my last post, I mentioned some of the downsides to having four kids. Namely, they are loud, fight a lot, and require a lot of logistical planning. So as not to appear unbalanced, this week I have been focusing on some of the upsides of having four kids. There was one particular upside that came to mind as I reflected on an experience with Miles this week.

One huge upside to having four kids is you realize you can stop blaming yourself for everything, all the time. You know all those quirks and idiosyncracies that you think you caused with your deficient parenting? Well, you didn't. I am speaking from experience (and a sample size of four) and I assure you that they came that way! You may ask how I can be so sure of that. My certainty comes from raising four kids in the same house by the same parent and yet, they couldn't be more different. This is not to say that nothing parents do matters or is impactful to how children turn out, but in my experience, a lot less so than we may either blame ourselves for or give ourselves credit for, for that matter.

Tuesday was one of those days that I would have liked to have taken credit for, but deep down, I know that it was nature, not nurture, at work. Miles, the consummate animal lover, just came this way.

When Miles arrived home from school Tuesday he immediately started scampering around the house and in the backyard, with great purpose. He found a large lid in the kitchen drawer and then quickly headed outside and started filling it with dirt. I was busy doing other things and didn't immediately inquire as to what he was doing, but did take notice of his urgency and sense of purpose. Miles, a true outdoorsman, often has some nature project going, so I assumed it was one of those.

The next thing I knew he returned inside from the backyard with an entire habitat built. On top of the plastic lid, there was a mound of dirt, leaves, rose petals, long strands of grass, and other tidbits from the garden. He explained this was a special habitat for the "calla pitter" (aka caterpillar) he had found (by the way, I don't correct him when he says it incorrectly, because I find it too endearing). I assumed he had found calla pitter in the garden, so I still didn't think much of it.

However, I soon overheard him telling Garin and the twins that he had brought the calla pitter home from school, which piqued my interest. When I asked him to tell me more, I heard the most magical story.

Miles told me that he found the calla pitter as he was coming back from lunch, on the ground, near his classroom. Worried that it was going to be inadvertently stomped on by his classmates, Miles scooped it up and rescued it. At the same time, he picked a few leaves from a nearby plant so the critter wouldn't grow hungry while waiting for the dismissal bell to ring at 2:10 (after all, two hours is a long time to go without nourishment for a poor calla pitter).

Miles went on to explain that he tucked the calla pitter inside his desk for safekeeping until school was dismissed. When I asked if he had told his teacher, Mrs. Pollon, about his stowaway, he said he had not. However, he was almost found out at one point when the calla pitter escaped from inside his desk. Luckily he quickly found it on the floor nearby and returned it to its secret hideaway, amongst his pencils and crayons.

Once the dismissal bell rang, he removed it from his desk and carefully placed it in his coat pocket for safekeeping on the journey home. When I picked him up from school, he made no mention of the stowaway at all.

Once home, with the calla pitter safe and sound in its new habitat, Miles spent much of the afternoon and evening checking on it to ensure it was comfortable and eating well (I am not sure it was either). I wish someone would dote on me the way he was doting on that calla pitter!

At bedtime, he carried the habitat upstairs with him so he could continue to keep a watchful eye on it. The only problem was that once he got upstairs and did his first bedtime wellness check, he quickly realized that the calla pitter had escaped again! He and I leaped into action, running back downstairs to do a thorough search. How long had it been missing? Had someone stepped on it (God forbid), by mistake? Luckily, we found it fairly quickly (in one piece, thank heavens) near the kitchen table. What a relief.

It was then that I had a heart-to-heart talk with Miles and told him that his new friend would probably be better off outside in the rose garden rather than trapped in the house (most likely to escape again, to who knows where). I explained how badly we would feel if it died on our watch because we weren't sure how to properly care for it. Surprisingly, Miles agreed. So together, we walked outside in the dark, placed the habitat down amongst the roses, and said goodnight.

The next morning, when Miles went to check on it, the calla pitter was gone. I told him that it had most likely climbed one of my rose bushes and was happily munching on the flower petals. Miles said he was happy for his friend and hoped it was thriving in the garden. I too hope the calla pitter is happy and thriving in the garden, without necessarily consuming too many of my roses, of course.

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