The other day I was getting dressed and got sidetracked by a squirrel. I know, I know…so cliche. Regardless, while I was buttoning my pants it caught my eye out the window. I stood there and watched it scurry up the tree, jump to a branch on another tree, and scurry back down. Even though I couldn’t actually hear it, I felt like I could almost hear it rustle through the undergrowth before it darted across the lawn and out of sight.
I’d had a rough parenting day. One where I wasn’t sure I was doing anything right. I wasn’t sure that the decisions I was making were the right decisions at all, even though I was trying to be super mindful of what I thought my kids needed and wanted. I found myself looking after that squirrel and thinking, “I bet squirrel parents don’t worry this much.”
So, I googled it. What? That’s completely normal behavior.
According to Orphaned Wildlife Care, baby squirrels wean at around 8 weeks but still rely on their mothers until about 12 weeks of age. Yeah, that doesn’t seem so bad. But, then again, squirrels only live 5-10 years. So…maybe it’s not so great either.
Let’s assume, though, that squirrels love the scurrying and skittering around. Let’s say they get a kick out of following their instincts and being so darn cute and having those amazingly fluffy tails! All that and they only have to care for their young for twelve weeks. I bet they’re so freaking content they can hardly stand it!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Because parenting humans is hard work. It’s full of second guessing and wishing I’d done or said something differently. It’s wanting what’s best but not even being sure what that is all the time. It’s crying when they cry, not acknowledging how clever their inappropriate sarcasm is, and not agreeing too quickly because then they’ll change their mind! And we human parents worry over all of this for much longer than three, short months and we scurry around too! Too and from sports’ practices, friends’ houses, social activities and clubs. And we have to think about meals – can’t have nuts to eat every night! Man, that right there seems like reason enough to envy the darn squirrels.
But, my guess is that if the squirrels cared enough to watch humans through their windows, they might be a little envious too. I mean, I doubt their hairless babies snuggle and cuddle and smell so good. I bet they don’t hold hands before they’re on their own or when feeling nervous or just because. I bet mama squirrels never hear “thank you” or “I love you.” I bet that after those three, short months, squirrel parents’ hearts don’t swell with pride to see what thoughtful, productive, creative individuals their little ones have grown up to be.
And here I am, sitting here…with my heart swelling.
We might laugh out loud about how easy we humans are to distract. But, I, for one, am thankful that in that distraction I can take a moment to feel grateful and appreciative of the life I’m taking a distracted break from.