Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mama Wolf

As an early Mother's Day present, I got to head over to our plot in the community garden with some precious soil amendments I bought without guilt (organic compost, essentially, and some fish/seaweed juice). I also trucked over a bunch of potting soil from some planters that finished up in the fall 'cause one of my beds was flooded. Since we all went, I got to haul huge wheelbarrow loads without balancing a 16-month old on top of the pile. I got a lot done! Planted some tomato seedlings (including Romas for canning), threw some compost around and weeded (so satisfying 'cause we've had buckets of rain). But the coolest thing? When I turned over some dryish soil to plant my tomatoes? My shovel unearthed a mother Wolf Spider and her egg sac. Heroic Mama Wolf scurried back to her egg sac and carried it out of reach of the sharp shovel's edge.

This mama spider was pretty special for all of us because of an EGirl story from when *she* was about 16 months old. I was attempting (feebly) to get some work done in the garden one plot over (our old slot) and had EGirl plopped in the very same turtle sandbox that fails to occupy her brother to this day while I garden. Without my noticing, she'd slipped out of the box and over to the side of the garden in a patch of weeds. Like her brother these days, she'd mastered a limited vocabulary, so I absentmindedly muttered "bug" when she chirped the word at me.

"Bug!" she said, ever more insistently, so I looked over at her wide, excited Cindy Lou-Who eyes. "Bug"! she crowed, and held out her cupped hands. Still only half-registering, I removed her top, cupped hand, expecting to find, oh, a ladybug. Wolf spider! You can imagine my ambivalence. On the one hand, I was thrilled that my daughter was (and is) so interested in insects, was so not exhibiting culturally-enforced gender stereotypes, was engaging with the garden.... On the other hand, I don't know if you've seen one, but a Wolf spider is a sizeable creature. Hostess Cupcake would be a slight overstatement, but certainly a half-dollar is in range.

I gently removed the spider from EGirl's hands, and, mindful of not scaring her or dampening her interest in arachnids, began a weeks-long discussion of how spiders are delicate so we don't pick them up. Not that a Wolf spider's poisonous, but a woman at the zoo told me she was surprised it didn't bite EGirl when it was trapped in her hands.

EGirl noted today that the mama we saw? Might very well be the (great-great-great) granddaughter of the spider she held in her very gentle toddler hand.


Mrs. G. said...

I admire your commitment to allow your daughter to love spiders-appreciate them rather than be petrified of me. Shudder.

Nora Bee said...

Yes, me too. Much prefer photos of spiders. But even so I'm not s smusher.

MamaBird said...

Mrs G and Nora Bee, I am going to have to go out on a limb and say that the flight instinct for spiders has got to be hard wired. I don't know why my child doesn't have it! Luckily she wasn't old enough at the time to read my ticker tape face (eyebrows shot to the sky).

Going Crunchy said...

I love looking at spiders and find them facinating. Being scared by them unexpectedly is another story!

Susannah said...

Incredible!! I've got two bug-obsessed boys but have never been handed a giant spider (crickets, grubs, fly larvae, yes).

Jessica said...

That's a great story. I love it when my daughter is excited about bugs, worms, and spiders. It makes me feel so proud to be raising kids in contact with nature.