Sophia's Spider

A little bit ago I heard a small slightly worried voice call "Daddy" from the basement. I didn't respond immediately, but the calling became more and more insistent until I had to investigate. I found Sophia, my 2 3/4 year old daughter in our library pointing urgently at a plastic container. Being the clueless father that I am, I said "yes, there's nuts and bolts in there," and proceeded into Ruth's workroom to gain more insight into why Sophia was so enamored of the container. Ruth told me (paraphrasing) "there is a spider in it, and I want it dead." Now, I often capture spiders rather than immediately exterminate, so that I can practice macro photography on them. So, I got a jar and managed to coax the little guy (probably about one-third inch) in and sealed it with the lid. Like any great hunter I took my newfound prey and showed it off to Ruth and let Sophia get a better look at it. Just as I was about to take the jar and leave, Sophia, using the most pitiful of voices asked "Please?" The "can I play with this," being implied. I decided there was no harm, so I told her okay, just don't let it go.

Five or ten minutes later, Sophia comes into my office upstairs holding her captive. at first I thought she was tired of the spider and giving it back to me, but instead she pointed to the window and said "Out!, Out!" Even with her limited vocabulary she was making it abundantly clear that she needed to take captive-become-friend outside. I asked if she wanted to let it go, "Yea!" came the enthusiastic response. We put some shoes on her and went out into the garage (the outside being too snowy for arachnid life). She pointed to the work bench, indicating the proposed release location. I helped her open the jar and tapped the spider onto the table (it took a little coaxing to come out). As it scurried off I told Sophia that it was going to go hide, a concept she's very familiar with, and she, content with her role as spider savior happily came back inside and went about her usual play routine.

I know that at two it is highly unlikely that she understands what it means to kill anything, and death can be a rather abstract notion for a child. But she did figure out that whatever death is, this spider deserved better. I have no compunction about killing spiders and insects. They are for all intents and purposes, below morality. But on the other hand, I marvel that a two year old can already have learned to value life more than many adults I know. I won't teach Sophia that she should never kill a bug, but every time she does choose to have mercy on one, I'll gladly help her find a new home for it, and be bursting with pride the entire time.

One wonderful thing about being a parent, is that for all the badness within humans, children can also give us a look at the goodness we're capable of.

I want to raise Sophia to, as The Doctor (Dr. Who) would say, "be the best of humanity." A two year old, by most measurements is hardly the best of anything, but once in a while she shows a glimpse of the woman of wisdom and peace that I hope she grows up to be.