Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Hawk, The Raccoon and The Circle of Life

*Just a warning... this post involves roadkill.  Don't want to ruin anyone's breakfast!   :-)

This past weekend, I was out with the kids driving around looking at the local scenery and enjoying a beautiful day after a morning of playing outdoors.  Knolan fell asleep, and so to let him enjoy a little nap, Kaycie and I decided we'd drive out to the countryside and see what we could find.

We saw some beautiful trees, a few horse farms, some almost-mansions for Mommy to drool over, and a train.  It was a successful afternoon drive.

Then I heard Kaycie say from the back seat, "Mommy, why is that bird eating that raccoon?"

(At this point, I would like to apologize for the paucity of pictures in this post, but I really didn't think anyone would be keen on looking at this particular back roads spectacle.)

I looked out her side of the van and saw a gigantic hawk perched on top of a dead raccoon.  Kaycie was right - the hawk had stumbled across a giant meal and was clearly enjoying every bite.  Ewww.

Have you ever had to explain something like this to a pre-schooler?  It's not easy.  Especially when said pre-schooler has recently begun realizing that animals die.  I was unprepared for how many abstract concepts that this roadside attraction embodied!

I am also a chronic over-explainer, so that doesn't help.  I tried to sound as upbeat as possible as we drove past the crime scene and I said to Kaycie,

"Well, honey, you remember watching The Lion King, right?  That movie was about the circle of life, remember?"

Lots of nodding from the back seat.  Good, good... I must be on track.

"Well, that raccoon was probably really old and ready to go to raccoon heaven.  He probably got really tired one day, laid down and thought about what a nice life he'd had and then closed his eyes and died."  (I was not ready to explain roadkill quite yet!)

Eyes just staring at me from the back seat.  Must keep talking.

"So, that's just the raccoon's body on the side of the road.  You don't have to worry because the raccoon's soul is gone to heaven.  The part of the raccoon that made him happy and laugh and live isn't there any more... just his fur and body are there now."

Eyes still staring.  I am doing it again... talking too much... can't stop explaining!  More cryptic crap about to burst out of mouth!

"So just think how wonderful it is that the hawk was flying around and was probably so hungry that his little tummy was grumbling, and then he happened to see the raccoon's body lying on the ground.  He was probably soooo happy to find some food, and it was just PERFECT because that really isn't the raccoon anymore... it's just his body!  Even though the raccoon is gone, he's still helping nature... isn't that great, honey?"

Somebody PLEASE muzzle me!!!!

There was a lot of silence for a moment, and then I hear:

"Mommy, I want to see the bird and the raccoon again."

"No honey... let's just keep driving."  Finally, I was having an appropriate parenting moment.  Yes!

"Mommy, I really, really want to see the bird and the raccoon again!"

"No sweetie.  Let's keep going."

Panic and tears starting to emanate from the back seat.


Well, you know what happened last time Kaycie wanted met to turn around and look at roadkill (for those of you not familiar with the tragic tale of the Gingies, please click here).  She got closure!  OK... it worked last time, maybe it would be ok to just drive by quickly one more time.

So, I turned the car around and headed for the hawk's breakfast nook.  As we drove past again, Kaycie just stared.  She was very quiet for a long time, and then she said,

"Mommy, can we go back and see the bird and the raccoon again?"

"Absolutely not.  We have to go to the store and do some errands, and I think you've seen enough of the hawk for today."


More silence.  I look in the rearview mirror, and she is deep in thought.

"Mommy, I know what we can do."

"What's that, sweetie?"

"I think you should turn the car around and go back to the bird and the raccoon.  Then, you should go over to the bird and say: 'Hey!  Look at that weird thing over there!' and then when he goes to see what you're looking at, then I can go and pick up the raccoon and let him lay in my lap for a while and you can GRAB the bird and stick him in a tree so he can't get the raccoon ever, ever, EVER again."

There was much emphasis on the word "grab".  Can you even imagine me trying to wrestle a hawk into a tree?  I am 500% certain the hawk would win.  It would probably look something like this:

Yes, yes... I know these are seagulls.

Poor Kaycie... she is just so kind and sweet, and I looked at her in the mirror.  She was pleading with me with her eyes.  I knew she was worried about her cute little raccoon buddy, and I am almost certain that if I had any birding aptitude at all, that I would have risked having my eyes beaked out to help her save that raccoon.

However, I have no birding abilities.  I was unfortunately not prepared to tackle a hungry hawk on this particular day.  I had to muster up all of my mommy powers and reassure her that everything would be ok.  I told her how proud of her I was for wanting to help the raccoon, but that she had to remember that the raccoon wasn't alive, and so she didn't need to worry that he was getting hurt.  This seemed to help, and after thinking about this for a minute or two, she summed up her feelings on the situation by saying:

"Yeah... I'm proud of me too.  But that bird really needs a time out."

I kind of felt that way too.  :-)

By the way, Knolan successfully slept through all of this.  Thank goodness... a crying baby added to the mix would have been delightful!  I can only imagine what it will be like in a few years when I have two sobbing kids in the back seat challenging me to explain the universe.


  1. i always wondered about raccoon souls and raccoon heaven...thanks kkm!

  2. I always wondered why the car smelled like racoon carcass after one of your drives... thanks KKM!

  3. What a good Mom...you learned over explaining from me...sorry, Love, Mom PS Kaycie got her big heart from you

  4. Ditto to what your mom said, biggest heart ever!!