Don’t worry Mom, it’s just a harmless garter snake

Why does my kid love snakes so much?

There is no earthly reason why I should be awake already. It’s 5:05 am and my eyes popped open at 3:58. That’s gross.

Bad dreams

Why is it that when I wake up in the middle of the night I can’t go all Julie Andrews ”these are a few of my favourite things” and drift back to sleep? Why is that I can only seem to dredge up the things that I’m worried about or annoyed with?

Try as I might, sleep wouldn’t come back to me so here I am – sitting at the computer writing about it.

You want to know what woke me up?

A dream.

A horrible, awful dream.

With snakes.

Little snakes. Big snakes. Snakes that bit.

And they were in my HOUSE!

The last thing I remember was holding a four foot-long snake just below the head as it squirmed trying to bite me.

I know, right? Now you understand. You’d have woken up too.

As soon as my eyes opened I knew I was fine. No snakes anywhere to be seen.

I have entirely too many snake stories

But I still couldn’t get back to sleep. So instead of sleeping I’m here to tell you a story, a story about another snake.

No, it’s not about Chuck. Chuck I liked, albeit from a distance. You’ll have to go here if you want to read about Chuck.

No this story is about a little snake and a little boy, my youngest son in fact.

Alex has had a fascination with reptiles since he was really little. He was born without any sense of fear. None. Nada. Zilch. It made parenting him a challenge and I sometimes compensated for his lack of fear with an abundance of my own. A child without fear is guaranteed to get himself into situations that terrify mothers.

He was also blessed with eyes in his fingertips. If he couldn’t touch it, he couldn’t understand it – it was like he couldn’t even see it if he couldn’t touch it. It was another challenging quality that made parenting him interesting.

Now take those two qualities, lack of fear and a compulsion to touch everything, and combine them with a love for reptiles.

Thank you – I appreciate the sympathy. I’d like to mention he has grown into a wonderful adult, so we both survived his childhood, but it was iffy at times to say the least.

The consequences of free-range parenting

Alex was about 7 when we moved to our home in the valley. It was a quiet neighbourhood with very little traffic. I am not a helicopter parent, my parenting style bordered on the free-range variety which is why my children were allowed to go adventuring. Unsupervised. And I already told you Alex survived to adulthood, so it’s fine.

Moving on.

He was off adventuring one day, an empty ice cream bucket slung over his handlebars for any treasures he might find and he came home with a doozy.

In the bottom of the bucket, curled up near a pile of grass Alex had added for comfort, was a snake! It was bigger than a pencil but smaller than a length of broomstick and I wondered briefly how he had managed to catch it because they’re pretty speedy when they need to be. Not to worry – the only species of snake that lives in our valley is a common garter snake, harmless really.

The mystery was solved when I spotted the yakked-up frog the snake had been busily trying to digest which would have made him pretty much immobile, certainly slow enough for Alex to catch.

That boy had been begging for a pet snake for ages and now he had one that was free, didn’t cost a thing. How could I argue with that?

And against my better judgement, I let him bring that bucket into the house. We agreed the snake would stay in the bucket with the lid on until we could get a terrarium for it the next day.

Looking back, I made a few mistakes, errors in judgement if you will. First, I should have left the bucket outside.

No – that’s really the only mistake I made. Other than putting the bucket in the basement where it was out of the way. That probably wasn’t the smartest decision either. And maybe I should have put a brick on top of the bucket lid…

Hello Houdini

The next morning, the snake was gone! It was nowhere to be found and believe me, I looked. Everyone looked! Apparently garter snakes are well-known escape artists, a little fact I found out too late.

Did I mention our bedroom is in the basement? Every night for months afterwards, if My Sweet or I had to get up during the night to go to the bathroom, our feet never left the floor. We just sort of shuffled along the carpet, afraid to lift a foot and maybe put it down on the still-missing snake. My mother refused to set foot in our house. It was not good. Not good at all.

We never did find the snake. Alex has never had another reptile in the house, not for lack of want or of begging, believe me, but once was enough.

Is there a moral to this little story? Oh probably. Let me think …*going to need more coffee*

How about this – most of my nighttime worries are things that are beyond my control. In the light of day my perspective is better and those issues tend to resolve themselves without any ‘help’ from me anyway. Better, I think, to leave my worries in the bucket. Just make sure the lid is on tight.

Love and light…

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