The lessons we learn from children. The boys got an ant farm for their birthday last year. The kind many of my friends had when I was a child. Clear plastic rectangle filled with sand, and holes on top for air to get in. I generally don’t care for nature—particularly insects—so I did my best to ignore the ant farm.
Over the winter break, the boys made solariums, and became fascinated with plants, nature, and things which grow. In the Fall, I took my youngest son’s Cub Scout den on a nature walk around our neighborhood. The boys had a blast. I was not thrilled, but I’ve learned to adapt.
Did you know you can have ants mailed to you? I didn’t until yesterday.
They shipped in a clear plastic tube, that seems too small, packed with small carrots for them to eat during their journey. I can’t imagine being shipped through US Mail in a space that small. It struck me as inhumane as we opened the package. But they’re ants. Insects.
Insects that bite, it turns out. Yeah, there’s a warning on the package. Ants bite. My oldest stood a good distance away as the Architect opened the tube of ants, and dumped them onto the sand. As she did, I noticed a few of our ants didn’t survive their journey.
My six year old noticed as well.
It bothered him. The sorrow started with a tremble in his chin. Then his eyes become long, and he stood still, suddenly quiet. The tears soon came, followed by wails.
There is a point in every parent’s life when they’re confronted with a harsh reality: you can’t comfort them. He was inconsolable at the sight of death. All we could offer were hugs, and tissues. Thoughts, and prayers.
Just as I was becoming emotional, the Architect graciously offered to lay down with him until he fell asleep. As I retreated back to the living room, I walked past the ant farm, and what I saw was extraordinary.
The ants were burying their dead.
I could hear the sobs of my son, muffled by his bedroom door. His mother would tell him, “the ants are with their friends.” And I watched the ants, as they methodically picked up their dead friends, and built a cemetery.
When we lose our children, we lose their innocence—we lose their light. We cannot always comfort them, but we must protect them. And until we learn this lesson from children, we’ll continue to bury our dead.
Just like the ants.