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  • The adventures of Ellie and Best Friend Beetle

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  • Last weekend I talked Ellie into coming onto the front porch to help me make tomato baskets for the garden.
    As I drilled holes in wooden stakes and strung wire through them to make the cylinders that will hold the tomato vines up, Ellie scraped sawdust into a bowl and helped hold the stakes in place.
    While we were working on a batch of stakes, 4-year-old Ellie spotted a shiny beetle. I expected a total freak-out as is the norm for our girls and bugs.
    Instead, Ellie wanted to scoop him up and put him in a bowl.
    I seized on this opportunity to get Ellie out of that phase where she screams when she sees any little spider or fly that happens near her. We got a bowl, filled it with some of the sawdust and dropped in “Best Friend Beetle,” as she named him.
    For the next hour or so, Ellie tried feeding Best Friend Beetle any number of things, from leaves and sticks to more sawdust and even the plastic strips that had held together the bundles of garden stakes. For the most, BFB stood pretty still, except for the moments where Ellie accidentally knocked him onto his back and he had to wriggle around to turn back over.
    We got to talk a lot about what BFB was doing and how he lived. And it was fun to make up stories about the life Ellie imagined for her new little buddy.
    There was a short-lived debate about bringing BFB into the house. Dorothy had pretty much the only voice in that argument and she didn’t seem like she would waver.
    After a couple more hours, I noticed BFB was moving pretty slowly and didn’t seem to be terribly happy in his bowl. I talked to Ellie about how BFB’s new habitat, no matter how much love she had put into it, might not be the best for him.
    Ellie wasn’t ready to hear that. And letting him go didn’t seem to be an option.
    My instinct was to lay down the law and make Ellie put the beetle back into the grass. But I didn’t do that.
    Instead, I discussed with her what would happen if we kept BFB in that bowl. He might live for a little while, but eventually he would die and he would surely miss his family.
    “But he has food and a place to sleep,” Ellie said.
    Yes, I told her. He sure did. But then I asked her if I put her in a different house and she had food and a bed but couldn’t see me, mom, her brother or her sister whether she’s be happy.
    Page 2 of 2 - In the end, I told Ellie it was her decision. She could keep BFB or she could let him go. Then I stopped talking about it.
    For another hour or so, Ellie poked at BFB with a stick, showered him with more leaves and sawdust and talked to him about everything she was doing. And then she gently turned the bowl and dropped him on the lawn.
    “Maybe he’ll come back and visit,” Ellie said.
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