Children are a joy and a blessing, but they also teach adults a few things. Adults think children are to be guided and taught. When my children were at home, life was very busy, school, work and after school programs. I did not want to hinder my children learning who they were and what they wanted to become. They participated in sports, choir and theatre as well as 4-H and horse activities. Added to the mix of activities was animals.
One fall day, their aunt brought over a gift for the kids, two tarantula spiders, she found crossing her driveway. We had an empty aquarium from the time we had fish. We set up the aquarium to be a home for the tarantulas. Next was a stop at the library to learn how to care for their new pets. We studied the books as a family, learning some interesting facts, like tarantulas are the oldest species of spiders, their fangs do not come together they have to stab them into their victim by raising up and pouncing on them. Tarantulas do not eat dead bugs, the bugs have to be alive.
Challenge number one, it is fall and freezing nightly temperatures, there are no bugs to catch to feed the tarantulas. We called the local pet store to find bugs, they did not carry crickets or any type of bug to feed to our new pets. The kids started reading because of them said they read where you can feed hamburger to tarantulas instead of bugs. Information was found, the person has to get the hamburger to stay on a string and drag the hamburger in front of the spider until it pounces on the meat. The kids and I learned patience in developing the skill of attaching the hamburger to the string, then dragging it to make it act like a living bug so the spiders would eat.
We also learned our tarantulas were males. Once a year, when the male tarantulas are mature they go on a march to find females in their dens. Only the males go wandering around. About three months of feeding the tarantulas one was found dead. Why did it die? It was eating, it had water and was warm. Back to the library to recheck out the books. Through no fault of our own the spider died, and two weeks later the other one died. When the male tarantula matures, he searches for a mate. When he does find a mate, after courtship she kills him. If he does not find a mate, he will die anyway.
The adventure with the tarantulas taught me to not say “Yes” to the request of a new pet until we as a family learned about the animal first.
The following fall, my oldest daughter’s class had iguanas for classroom pets. She wanted an iguana and said mom they are vegetarian, they only eat vegetables we will not have to put hamburger on a string to feed them. To the library again. We learned iguanas use their tails as a weapon and adult iguanas can cause physical harm with their tails and claws. The answer to my daughter’s request was “No”.
We had fun learning about the different animals my children thought they wanted for pets. Several times, after reading and learning, they made the choice to not have the animal as a pet. I learned from our experience with the tarantulas, not to accept a free pet no matter how small.
I share these stories with my grandchildren. Sometimes they are upset because mom and dad will not let them have an animal for a pet. I take them to the library and let them learn about the animal first. Most of the time, the grandchildren learn the reason their parents said no, without having bad feelings towards their parents. Another plus, the grandchildren are reading and learning, and not watching television or video games.
P.S. I was terrified of spiders until we had the tarantulas. I still do not like spiders, but I can tolerate their presence.