My not-so-little five and a half year old boy has snuck into our bed. He curls up on my left side. He snuggles in, right next to me, like he always has. And I instinctively move over toward my husband, to make more room for him. In the early morning quiet of the foggy moonlight, I hold his warm body and listen to his breathing, then I begin to worry.
And think and overthink.
I probably shouldn’t have had iced tea at noon.
It’s 4 a.m.
There’s a tiny baby squirrel outside in our tree house. He’s free to go but maybe he doesn’t know where or how to go. I imagine him snuggled up alone in the pant leg of some 4T hand-me down camouflage fleece pants. Perhaps, I should have never let my boys pet the baby squirrel, or hold him or carry him. Some would argue that in doing so, we interfered with nature. I’ve read dozens of articles on the Internet in attempts to figure out the squirrel’s age, his needs, or why he may have casually walked right up to my boys in the front yard. Maybe his dad tried to eat him and when his mom tried to defend the nest, he fell out or left. I read that. His mama may have been moving nests and dropped him. Or forgotten him. Maybe, with his newfound independence and his tiny bushy tail, came a dose of curiosity about the world around him. Maybe he got lost.
We may have saved his life from one of the circling hawks above. Or not. He may have been sick. Or completely healthy, yet quite inexperienced at life outside the nest. I don’t know much about squirrels that I haven’t recently read online but I know a lot about the joy I’ve witnessed. My boys feel an indescribable amount of love for a creature that’s not their own. A creature that is young, dependent and unpredictable, yet so utterly, perfectly lovable.
Since I am familiar with this kind of love, I let my son carry an old sock with a warm pack tucked inside up the tree fort ladder to place next to the squirrel. A warm sleeping buddy. I hope this helps him make it through the night if his mother can’t find him. Or if something happened to her, and she won’t be finding him. Ever again.
This tugs at my heart in a foreign way. Surely there won’t come a day that one of my boys will leave the nest, and I won’t know where he is or come find him. Searching everywhere. Will my boys ever wander away to explore their worlds and when night comes, will they sleep in the dark, in the cold, and in a place that’s not-their-home?
Most likely, and hopefully, yes.
Maybe that’s why I’m so worried about the baby squirrel. Because I’m worried about my not-so-little baby boys, too. And I’m worried about future me: the grown-up me that has an empty snuggle spot for one of my bed-stealing little boys to snatch.
A place that no longer will be for them because they’ve grown up.
And found a new nest.
I’m pretty certain the squirrel mama would also recognize my boys’ love for her baby. As much as she missed her baby, she could rest easy most nights (that she didn’t drink iced tea for lunch) knowing that her baby was completely loved. So deeply and magically loved by three innocent compassionate little boys.
(Fuzz pictured above at OWL getting the pee squeezed out of him. Squirrel mothers help do this for their babies… and you thought changing diapers was heinous)
*After caring for the baby squirrel for a week, we called Operation Wildlife and received the advice to bring the baby squirrel to the center. We took a heart breaking mini-road trip with my son and “Fuzz.” As difficult as it was to take him to the Kansas wildlife rehabilitation center, we wanted him to he have the best chance for survival as a squirrel. After all, I’m still learning how to raise human boys.