As a homeschooling family, we can turn anything into a school assignment. Even a request for a pet. We just never expected the assignment to turn into a lesson on grieving the loss of a pet. Let me share the story of how my son met his first pet, a stick bug. And how his pet became a school assignment.
“Daddy, that stick is moving!”
“Hmm. Maybe the wind is blowing it, Bubba.”
“Nope. That stick is moving! Daddy, LOOK!”
There on our yard’s faucet lies a moving stick. We couldn’t believe it. We had to do a double-take!
Have you ever seen a bug that looks like a stick or a twig? Only in books? Yeah, same here…
Our eldest, O, saw it first and pointed it out. We didn’t believe him at first (I know, bad parents), but when he wouldn’t budge, we took a closer look. There it was, a bug… that looks like a stick. We tried to shoo the bug away but he stayed put. So we did what any parent of boys would do. We gave O a plastic container to catch his first bug, who became his first pet. He named him… Mr. Stickbug aka Mr. Sticky.
It was really cute to see O’s excitement. He was in love. Seriously. He said he’s “in love with Mr. Stickbug”. He decorated his new pet’s plastic container home with grass, leaves, and a little stick. We even looked up what to feed him. Take a guess at what a stick bug eats… you guessed it… LEAVES!
I’m not a fan of bugs, but I couldn’t resist O’s request to keep him as a pet. Especially after he promised to take care of it. A thought came to mind. This bug can play multiple roles. He’ll be a pet and (BONUS) a school assignment for O!
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We began our research. We learned that these bugs are actually called stick insects. They are predominantly nocturnal insects. They like grassy areas, where they feed on leaves. During the day, they are usually motionless if they are not hidden under plants. So our little guy must’ve been lost because we came across him in broad daylight, hanging out on our faucet. Maybe he was thirsty???
We also learned that he must’ve tried to escape a predator because he was missing a limb. According to National Geographic, many of these bugs will shed a limb to escape a dangerous situation and pretend to be dead.
So now O has a pet to call his own. He reads to Mr. Stickbug, feeds him leaves, and takes him out to the sun for some “vitamin D – to help boost his immune system”. He even blows him good night kisses and adds him to his nightly prayers. He tried to bathe him once, but I told him Mr. Stickbug is like a cat. He doesn’t like baths.
Mr. Stickbug had a very active lifestyle with us. He even went with us on a road trip, joined us at parties, and met the rest of our (local) family. Grandpa even helped O upgrade Mr. Stickbug’s home to a bigger plastic container. He even added more “furniture” for his little friend. Mr. Stickbug really came up! He was living the life no other stick insects have ever lived!
A week later, just before we were getting into bed, things didn’t look too good for Mr. Stickbug. We found him upside down in his newly upgraded home. O was concerned. He shook the container. Gently at first. Then a little bit more. Then a little harder. And harder. Before I knew it, O was shaking the container so hard, Mr. Stickbug was bouncing everywhere!
Mr. Stickbug was dead. O was heartbroken.
We now have to explain why things eventually die. In the simplest terms, we told him God needed a stick bug to help make other kids in heaven feel better. O loves helping other kids. So this explanation worked out well for him. It made it easier for him to grieve the loss of his pet. His school assignment is taking an interesting turn of event. We did not plan for his grieving the loss of his pet to be a sad school assignment. But you plan and God plans for you.
We gave him some time with his friend. He said his good-bye and thanked him for being in his life and for being his friend. He even asked Mr. Stickbug to say hello to his late brother when he gets to heaven. Not gonna lie, I turned into a leaking faucet when he mentioned his late brother.
The following morning, we laid Mr. Stickbug to rest in our backyard. O helped his dad dig up Mr. Stickbug’s grave. He placed a “tombstone” on his friend’s grave and said one last prayer for his friend. O was bummed but understood that this world is temporary.
We discussed his feelings and gave him lots of hugs and kisses. We discussed different ways of grieving the loss of a pet. We helped him document his experience of grieving the loss of a pet that became a school assignment. We reminded him he did the best he could for his pet. He understood that God put Mr. Stickbug in his life to teach him about life. Life is temporary. Life is beautiful. To God we belong, and to God we return.
This concludes our impromptu life lesson for O’s school assignment about grieving the loss of a pet. It lasted a whole week. He totally aced it. He even gained extra credit when he visited Mr. Stickbug’s grave two weeks later. He placed a flower on the grave to let Mr. Stickbug know he misses him. So proud of our little guy.
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Peace & Blessings to you all!
Bahry & The Boys