Have you ever played with a slug? Wikipedia’s description isn’t excessively flattering; “an apparently shell-less, terrestrial, gastropod mollusk” but my wife simply categorizes them as gross. I remember in my youth, scooping them up and throwing them at one of my four brothers, but other than that they didn’t leave a distinct impression on my young mind.
One of the joys of fatherhood is that you are able to reassess your surroundings, and re-evaluate your perceptions. So when my three year old first started to crouch down to pet a gooey monoped; I held back any discouraging words. It was easy to wipe off the trail of slime that was left on his index finger, and I thought it tender that he felt any affection for this much maligned creature.
Last Monday though, when we went out for an afternoon stroll in the woods, he decided to go further, and determined that the small slug before him would make a good pet; he resolved to bring him home. We had already spent twenty minutes prone, watching it crawl a few millimeters on a discarded leaf, and I had enjoyed the small break from activity that this had afforded me. Could I refuse his request? While I sorted through explanations for why this wasn’t a great idea he stared at me with his large expressive eyes, clutching the mollusk protectively.
“Okay, but he needs to stay outside,” I heard myself acquiesce to his innocent demand. I was happy that he had sat so quietly and observed the slug, instead of poking or violently smacking his muculent friend.
With new pet in tow we stumbled a few more steps, and then Finn spotted another small tube of gastropod goo; he stooped and his free hand quickly wrapped around it. My eyes rolled involuntarily, but I knew that I had a few hours to distract and clean my son before my wife would arrive home; so I again dismissed any thoughts of interjecting.
I passed a third slug on the trail without commenting, in hopes that Finn wouldn’t be able to discern its mucky presence amongst the orange maple leaves, but he paused and I could see that his eyeballs were focused on one thing: this rather large mucousy beast. At this point I was ready to put my foot down; I had reached my reasonability limit and I wasn’t going to condone another clammy companion on our trip home. Before I had a chance to protest, he spoke, “Dad I think that these slugs should stay here, it is their home.”
A feeling of pride welled up and all I could reply was, “I think you are right.”
He opened his small pink hands and let the glutinous creatures tumble to the ground. Unceremoniously he waved a quick ‘good-bye’ and then began to trot down the path. I sidled up to him, and he reached out his hand which I happily clasped in mine. Between our flesh was a patina-well maybe rather a thick coating-of viscose slime, this caused our hold on each other to slip; but the wide smile on his face forced me to ignore the scummy substance that came between us and I let out a loud laugh.
Post Script: If your child becomes similarly entranced by slugs it takes more than just soap and a cloth to remove the remnants of that curiosity. I scrubbed and scraped; with my fingernails, a potato scrubber (don’t tell my wife about this because she believes that I don’t in turn adequately clean all utensils I use for slime removal), and a green-backed yellow sponge. I was tempted to use steel wool but I wasn’t prepared to listen to the complaints this would elicit from my three year old.