You Call Them Turtles, I Call Them Life 101.


The Hubster and I celebrated fourteen years earlier this week, and while we were out, we got the phone call every parent dreads when they leave their kids at the house with a babysitter:

Please come home right now.

It’s amazing how fast our brains work. The space between that sentence and the one that came next couldn’t have been more than a moment (according to Hello, Dolly! a moment is less than a second, and in general I think it’s good practice for a person to get all their physics facts (is this a physics fact??) from musicals. The science itself might not be terribly solid, but dang, the tunes are catchy) but somehow in that short period of time I was able to construct every worst-case scenario – children mowed down by cars in the street, choking to death on food, fingers in light sockets, slipping in the bathtub and drowning, etc, etc – all the while scrambling for my stuff and sprinting out the door, with a very confused and concerned Hubster in my wake.

Then the next sentence came:

Abby tried to eat the turtles.

Abby is our black lab. Actually, it might be safer to say she’s my black lab. The Hubster is indifferent to dogs, but I love them. I grew up on a farm, and we always had dogs – inside dogs, outside dogs. The only time I’ve ever lived without a dog was my short (failed) stint in college. Abby is very curious…very, very curious. She once spent an entire hour sitting in front of our kitchen table, watching Willy’s birds with rapt interest (see photo above). Thankfully there was no sad endings to that story.

We got home to a sad scene. VV was weeping bitterly. Willy was trying to hold it together. The turtles were in shock – heads and legs drawn up in their shells. There was quite a bit of blood around, considering the critters are so small. On our way home I’d done some research on what to do for bitten turtles, and I had VV help me get their wounds cleaned and treated.

Once we’d done everything we could for the night, it was time for The Talk. You know, the one every pet owner has to have with themselves, the one every parent with a pet has to have with their kids, the one that will eventually evolve into larger, deeper conversations that will most likely leave you out of your depth:

Everything dies.

We are blessed with boys who never cease to amaze me. Their sense of faith is so strong, I’m often envious of it. Their belief system is based on a God who loves them (and everybody), always, no matter what, and who – even when bad things are happening around and to them – always has their best interest in mind. But here’s the kicker, the thing that really blows me away, because as a 34-year old adult, I often struggle with it: They are okay with that. Sure, it sucks – and sucks bad – when terrible things happen, but those terrible things don’t change who God is or how they feel about him. (And I just have to give a shout-out to Newspring Church for nurturing that faith in all our littles. You guys rock.)

VV also has an amazing capacity for acceptance. I honestly didn’t think the turtles would make it through the night – a really hard thing to tell your nine-year old boy who considers his turtles to be his ‘children’ (for those of you who know my family personally, you’ll really understand how tragic this whole thing is. The rest of you should understand that VV’s biggest dream is to some day have kids of his own, so when he says he loves something like it’s his child, he means it). There were lots of tears from everybody in the room, but when the tears dried up, he pulled himself together and said, Okay. If that’s what happens, I will be okay. I won’t like it at all, but I will be okay.

getwellsoonAs I’m writing this, it’s been a couple days since the Great Turtle Attack of 2013, and both turtles are still alive and kicking. They have a long recovery ahead, and I’m still doubtful that Myrtle will make it – but they’re fighting. VV is taking care of them with the same kind of love and care I give him and his sibs when they are sick and hurt. It’s one of the most bittersweet things I’ve experienced as a parent. Watching him love these animals – these critters who are solely dependent on him for their well-being – all the while knowing they might not make it, has been amazing. Watching him deal with the grief and anger has been so hard – but I’m so proud of him. He’s angry at the thing Abby did, but he also understands that it was just her nature – she’s curious, she’s a carnivore, she’s a hunter. She did what a dog like her is programmed to do. He’s angry, but he’s not bitter. And what a warrior he’s become in his prayers. I listen when he doesn’t know I am. He’s asking God for things that are beyond his years – not only for his turtles to be healed (of course that’s there), but for strength for himself to take care of them, for help being nice to Abby even though he really doesn’t feel like it, and for help being okay if they do die.

They were just turtles when we got them – a birthday gift to a nine-year old boy who thinks turtles are the bomb-diggity.

They’ve become so much more.



14 thoughts on “You Call Them Turtles, I Call Them Life 101.

  1. larissa says:

    As always I am deeply impressed by your kids. They have so much compassion for other’s. Do not sell yourself or Thomas short you are fantastic parents and they are following in your examples. I so look forward to seeing who they shape into in their adulthood.

  2. Teresa says:

    As usual, you have injected humor into a life-crisis but added the caring and loving of you and your wonderful family. I am sharing your blog with my family to help prepare them (as if that is possible!) for J’s travel through childhood. Love you!

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