Me and the girls were on our way to run some errands, Shira packed into the stroller and Alyce marching alongside. Alyce, who has recently become obsessed with non-flying bugs (for the love of all things please don't get her started about bees), found a bug on the sidewalk early on in our walk. It was one of these, something I have always called a Potato bug, because it rolls up in a ball when disturbed by a predator such as my daughter. Alyce was instantly smitten with her bug and declared it her pet. I think the feeling was mutual, because little Potato bug immediately uncurled himself and wandered around her tiny hand. We were already on our way to the dollar store to pick up some extra bubbles, and I excitedly told her that we could find a special bug box to make a new home for her new pet. Wasn't that nice of me?
That girl of mine carried that bug for twenty minutes without so much of a squirm or complaint.
We entered the dollar store, where she was instructed to hold on tight to that bug, lest we lose him in the middle of all that plastic and reduced priced candy. We found what we were looking for, a cheap, clear, reusable plastic container, and waited in line to pay. Just before it was our turn in line Alyce, with concern in her voice, piped up: Oops, Mama. Where did my bug go? I stepped aside to help her look for him. Do you see where this is going? Are you preparing yourself?
The bug crunched under my foot. Alyce gasped. I gasped. And then the tears began. Alyce's first words to me (because this was all going on in slow motion, it seemed like hours before she spoke up) were, Mama, why did you kill my bug? Of course she's asking me why. In her mind I would be just as careful around her pet bug as I would be if Shira were underfoot (note: I've stepped on Shira at least a dozen times). I wouldn't step willy-nilly without thinking, so then I must have done that on purpose. Right? But of course I didn't. I treasured that little Potato bug because my Alyce was treasured it so.
Her tears were big and they were real. They were not the "I didn't get what I want" tears, but the "my Mama just crushed my soul" kind. I scooped her up and apologized, reminding her that I was sad, too, that I had accidentally killed her bug. She accepted my apology, wiped her eyes, and explained that the only thing that would make her feel better was candy. Since we were right next door to a Dairy Queen, I did the next best thing: ice cream cones before lunch. All was forgiven.
(At the time of this writing, one hour later, Princess Bug escaped her clutches and is currently hiding under the deck. Alyce is taking a rest now from bug hunting, but she's promised to find another. I'll watch where I step from now on.)