Little Chick loves puddles. The only thing he loves more than jumping in puddles is splashing then stomping on snails. At least that was true at the beginning of the week.

If there was a snail on our route the Other Mrs Reed Warbler or I had to distract Little Chick while the other moved it to safety. The crunch of their shells as he crashed his welly-booted foot onto them was music to his ears. It rang alarm bells in ours; we didn’t want to condone accidental cruelty and we absolutely would not be party to deliberate brutality.

Our initial pleas had absolutely no effect. If anything, he seemed more determined to defy us. Fortunately, a visit from Grandma provided timely intervention. She convinced Little Chick that it wasn’t a kind action and she expected better from her best boy. We use disappointment sparingly, but it was right in this situation. Little Chick takes pride in being kind – he sees how much it delights us – and the satisfaction of pleasing Grandma outweighed the feelings gained from stomping.

Within a few days he had stopped crushing snails completely, instead looking after them. He gently picks them up and lets them slide on his hand, giggling at the sensation and the trails they leave behind. If they look hungry or thirsty, he relocates them by luscious blades of grass or fills a saucer to create an insect watering hole, sometimes carrying them gently, other times transporting them in his dumper truck now exclusively available to his snail friends.

This has been an important lesson for Little Chick. He has learned to look after other creatures and respect nature, the first steps of stewardship. Additionally, he has learned to look at nature, to see the beauty in it. He will admire the snails’ shells now, tracing the swirls with his fingers then replicating that pattern in his drawings. Should a snail perish – from natural causes – he will collect the shell and place it with the others. A touch macabre perhaps but better and kinder than needless destruction.

It has also deepened his relationship with Grandma: she and snails are now synonymous, both eliciting joy from Little Chick.

This blog post is dedicated to all the snails who perished under Little Chick’s boot. May they rest in peace.

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