The pill bug

I’m watching my daughter play with a bug. It’s a pill bug she plucked off Grandma’s lawn, the kind that curls up in a tight ball when you touch it. Only it’s not curling up. It’s making its way up Thalia’s arm, tickling her and sending her into fits of delighted giggles.

“He really likes me, Mommy!” she tells me. “I tried to shake him off and put him back in the cup but he likes me. He wants to stay with me.”

She strokes him with her fingertip. She examines his tiny feet. She gazes right into his face, as if this ordinary black pillbug were romantic as a ladybug or as sweet as a pale green inchworm. She talks to it in a high-pitched voice, the same one she uses when she plays “mommy” with her dolls.

She tells him that everything will be okay.

I smile and go back to my newspaper. I know that one day soon, she’ll say ew. One day she’ll learn from some girlfriend or another that girls are supposed to squirm when they see bugs, supposed to shriek and run away. One day soon she’ll learn that the worms she likes wriggling in her palm, and the daddy longlegs she likes tickling her feet are boy things. One day she’ll learn that girls don’t play with bugs when they want to be liked by other girls who don’t play with bugs.

But right now, I’m watching my daughter play with a bug. And I’m in love with her.


28 thoughts on “The pill bug”

  1. Awww!! How sweet! My 3 y/o loves bugs too. I am not a bug fan, but not because I'm a girl. I was OK with bugs until we had a nasty experience on a vacation, now I have severe arachnophobia. Bugs I can usually just ignore but spiders are another story all together.

  2. Right now, M and her dad have the giant magnifying glass and are searching the yard for bugs. I know that day is coming, but I'm enjoying the denial right now.

  3. My 3 yo son hates bugs and shrieks. We're not sure where it comes from.

    We've worked on ants and spiders, but he still freaks about pill bugs (or rollie-polies as we call them).

    Glad your girl is communing with nature 😉

  4. I've always liked pill bugs, if it makes you feel any better. 🙂 But our good ole Texas-SIZED roaches we have? Yeah, not so much.

    Sweet post… Enjoy your day.

  5. We have two tarantulas, so my almost 3 yo girl has grown up with creepy crawlies. She plays “mama and baby” with a wide variety of animals while her dolls lie languishing in the bottom of the toy box. (Yes, having a 4.5 yo brother has been an influence)

    I don't look forward to the day when she learns that playing with lizards and bugs is not cool. I relish that right now, she can play with whatever her little heart desires.

  6. We call those Rollie-Pollies. Although I am in the camp of being creeped out by bugs. I have been working in my garden this morning and I feel like they are crawling all over me. I am not sure I am like your daughter and found them fun.

  7. If I could send you the pic I would. Jack (3 1/2 my oldest who is OCD and the typical overprotected firstborn who doesn't like to touch anything that could be the slightest oddity, eats like he's an adult – nothing on his hands ever) picked up a little lizard he cornered in a flower pot and didn't freak out a few weeks ago. It was a proud moment. He IS all boy (and I haven't screwed him up after all!). Love u Liz!

  8. My eldest (nearly 5) captured a snail this weekend, placed it in a little box with leaves and flowers, and asked if we could keep it forever and take it on vacations with us. Hm, maybe we should consider a real pet.

  9. Awesome 🙂 It's so difficult for me to reinforce that bugs are cool but so far so good. And thank you for calling it a pill bug! everyone around here calls them wood bugs and figures I'm nuts when I say pill bug…

  10. All my kids love their bugs. They like to round up families of them in the garden and get distressed when they wander off to do their own bug things. It's one of the things I love about watching them be kids.

  11. Sweet. My baby girl already has a fear of bugs, but I am hoping that she will outgrow it. 😉 She also fears feathers and fuzz, so…

    The boys love pill bugs and often ask to keep them as pets. We don't, but I love that they love them.

  12. When I'm with little girls I find that I have a mission to tell them how fun and interesting bugs are- and remind them to be calm and quiet so they don't scare bees (who are so tiny compared to their monster little girl selves!)

  13. That's wonderful! My little niece is going through a pill bug fascination period too — she's trying to teach my daugther not to be afraid of them!

  14. My girls used to say 'ew' but now they love bugs and worms. We call pill bugs potato bugs for some reason, but same bug: they curl up in a little ball when you touch them, usually.

    Spiders still freak them out, and bugs in the house are cause for alarm. but outside, they go looking for bugs and worms. Oh, except for bees, which send my 5yo into a tizzy (she was stung, once, a year ago, and remembers it very well).

  15. As someone who used to play with all things creepy crawly with my female cousin, there are some things you never outgrow. Still catching bugs but now with my 11 yr old daughter 🙂

  16. It's unbelievable to hear those words translated by you from the lips of your daughter.

    They're the same ones I hear from my nearly-five son under the same conditions. Like he's playing house. And I think, sometime soon, someone, a peer, will tell him he's silly or girly for speaking to his friend-bug in such a loving, caring way, and it makes my heart ache, but for the moment, I can hear it and adore it in its pure, un-self-aware fashion.

    Thanks for this, Liz.

  17. Love this blog post. Hopefully her compassion will grow and she won't squish bugs. Bug-squishing-girls are worse then bug-squealing girls.

  18. Maybe she'll keep that frame of mind… that would be even sweeter. Just not with roaches. Ick! lol

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