Here are the 5 parenting lessons Brian Anderson learned from a snake, and how it taught him to be a better dad.
- Children, just like snakes, and in-laws need boundaries
I was hesitant to let my daughter bring home the baby black and yellow speckled kingsnake we caught at the park. My wife thought we should let my three-year-old keep the pencil-sized snake because my wife had a weird childhood where she could bring rodents and reptiles into the house without punishment. I said I didn’t think it was a good idea.
We ran into a friend, who happened to be a biology teacher. She said she was so proud of a little girl holding a wild snake. Just imagine the learning opportunity. I said we’d probably let it go before we got to the car.
But when my three-year-old daughter said, “I’ll name him Best Friend the Snake,” I sighed and responded, “Okay. We can keep him.”
- Some people love snakes…they are called weirdos
A few days later, I was at home alone with the kids and noticed a distinct lack of speckled kingsnakes in the terrarium we had set up. Google lead me to a snake owner’s forum. Most of the advice online was about how to catch the snake you love. Everyone suggested gentle ways to catch a snake like dusting the floor with flour overnight so you could see where it had moved. The more I read the more I realized that I might be on the wrong website. I wanted the website that told me what kind of poison to use.
- The longer a problem goes uncorrected, the bigger the snake will be
The next thing I read on the forum was that my snake would grow to be 4 feet long in the nooks and crannies of my house. Kristin calls what happened next a “freak out.” I didn’t just look; I tossed the joint like a Russian spy searching for microfilm: unzipping couch cushions, emptying cupboards, and flipping through every book, all the while imagining a 4-foot snake in the crib with my son.
- I’m basically as good a dad as Liam Neeson
Both Bryan Mills (Neeson) and I had made parenting mistakes. He missed his daughter’s childhood; I’d let a snake in the house.
At midnight I was exhausted after my daylong search. But I couldn’t just go to bed and let Best Friend the Snake burrow deeper into the house’s recesses. So I set the air-conditioner to its coldest setting. I put an extra blanket on each of my kids and my wife in their upstairs bedrooms. Then, I descended the stairs grabbed a blanket for myself and lay down on the floor.
I have a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired as a warm-blooded mammal. By making the house cold, I would be the only warm thing and that damn snake would come to me. I was less worried about sleeping with a snake than I was about being the kind of guy who is okay sleeping with a snake. As I lay there, I envisioned myself as a snake guy: getting into D&D and buying a waterbed at a garage sale.
I’d left a light on in the other room so I could see. After the house had been quiet for a few hours I saw black movement along a baseboard. Like a ninja, I rose, captured the snake, and walked the mile and half in jammies and flip-flops to the park, holding the snake in my hands.
- Don’t bring things into your house that you don’t want there
On the way home I thought a lot about why that snake bothered me so much. We’d seen lots of snakes in the yard before. I lived in a house in Brazil once with rats the size of raccoons, and I’ve never been this upset about a pest.
The reason this affected me so much was because I had brought the snake in. It didn’t sneak in looking for food. I carried it with my own hands. I brought something into my house that I didn’t want there. I think about that a lot now. What else do I bring into my home?
I’m glad the snake is gone, but I’m also grateful for the lessons he taught me about being Dad.
This originally appeared on http://www.candyhouseblog.com/?p=619.
Title photo: Flickr/Leviand Rachel