I did my best to teach her right from wrong. In every situation, I encouraged her to believe that the most important thing she could do was treat everyone and everything with respect. There were days that I wished I could have taught her to be a little more selective, but I suppose that’s a sacrifice I had to make.
“Mom!” I heard her calling from the front lawn. I peeked out of the window above the sink to see her with her back to me, crouched over something.
“Hi, Charlie,” I called through the screen. An anthill, I figured.
“Mom, come out!” her voice trailed off and I lost sight of her. She was chasing something. Please don’t let it be wasps again…
When Charlie was three, her curiosity led her to a wasp nest. The entire drive to the hospital was filled with her crying, “It looked like a balloon. I didn’t know it was full of needles, Mommy,” and “I just wanted to see inside, they didn’t have to be so mean.”
Fearing the worst, I quickly dried my hands on my jeans and flew out the screen door. There was my baby girl, only five years old, chasing an obviously injured bird.
“He’s not flying, Mom!” Charlie would step closer and the robin would hop a few steps away.
“Oh, sweetie, I think he’s hurt.”
“Well, what do birds need to fly?”
“Um… Eyes!” Charlie hopped toward the bird again, trying to look at its eyes.
“Charlie, stop chasing that bird. How would you like to be chased if you were hurt?” She looked as though I broke her heart and I continued, “And you have eyes, miss. Do your eyes help you fly?”
She blinked rapidly trying to fly and decided after a few seconds that it was impossible. “Feathers.”
I smiled, “Those help for sure. But what else?”
She looked at me with her big brown eyes, starting to fill with tears. “Mom, is his feathers broken?”
“No, baby. But I think one of his wings might be. That’s why he won’t fly away from you – because he can’t. And that’s why it’s extra important that you don’t chase him. Do you want to come inside and help me make supper?”
“Mom!” tears streaming down her little face, bottom lip quivering, she ran into my arms and bawled. “We have to fix it!”
“We can’t fix it, Charlie. We aren’t animal doctors,” I stroked her tangled hair.
“Veterinarians,” she corrected me and wiped her nose on my shirt at the same time.
“That’s right, we aren’t veterinarians.”
“Can we take him to a veterinarian?” when she pulled her face out of my chest, I could see the streaks where her tears had cleaned a day’s worth of dirt.
I sighed heavily and whispered, “I don’t think we’ll be able to catch him. And even if we do, I don’t know if the vet can save him.”
Many tears later from both of us, Charlie convinced me that catching him and taking him anyways was the most respectful thing to do. We went into the house and found a boot box and an old towel. When we walked out the front door, the robin was still standing awkwardly on the lawn. Throwing the towel over him and gently placing him in the box was easily one of the most stressful situations I had ever been in. Trying to explain to my five year old that killing the bird was the nicest thing the veterinarian could do was another one.