Why did the worm cross the road?

Gifts are in the eye of the beholder. This morning, I got a worm.

The kids haven’t reacted well to Daylight Savings Time, which shouldn’t have been that high a hurdle. Monday: grumpy. Tuesday: grumpy. Wednesday…well, you get the point. By Wednesday, Mom was grumpy as well. So now it’s Friday and Kiddo3 still can’t figure out how to get out of bed, and instructions such as “Now put on your shoes” are unfathomably complex.

I finally got him and Kiddo4 out to the bus stop, where they proceeded to bicker. Bickering should be an Olympic sport, so I’d at least feel like a Tiger Mom in some respect. Yeah, it’s hard to listen to, but they’re training. They say you have to put in three hours a day to be an expert, but I think they put in five.

That’s when I saw the worm on the pavement. He was about six inches long at full extension and three and a half when retracted, and with purpose he was making his way from my neighbor’s lawn over to the grass on the other side of the sidewalk. I have no idea: maybe he was on the lamb and needed to get out of some bird’s jurisdiction. Maybe the rent came due and he was having an unexpected Moving Day. Regardless, he was crossing No Worm’s Land, and I said, “Hey, guys, take a look.”

Boys. Worms. Always a great combo. We all crouched and watched the segments of the worm expending and contracting as he pulled across. Kiddo4 said, “like a caterpillar,” and I pointed out, “he has no feet,” which my son found hilariously funny. How do you walk with no feet?

But here’s the coolest thing: while I struggled to remember my high school worm-anatomy (they do have anatomy) one of the other bus stop kids came over to watch. And I pointed out that by sitting where she had, her shadow was protecting him.

She whispered, “Then it’s really good I’m here. I’m saving him from the sun.”

The worm got across to the grass and began burying himself. The children were very concerned he wouldn’t make it all the way in if the bus came, that the sun would dry him out. I had to find a few tattered leaves from last Fall and make him a shelter.

But for those ten minutes, they didn’t bicker. They learned. They worked together. They found purpose in sheltering this feetless creature.

There should be a Worm Of Peace And Harmony award. Or something. He probably doesn’t realize what he did by crossing the road.


  1. Lorraine E. Castro

    Life is such a teacher. We could all learn more from spending time outside in the natural world instead of behind walls.

    You’re a great mom for recognizing the dynamics. How many others might have just pushed their kids to get up and not get dirty with the “stupid worm”?

    1. philangelus

      It’s not a great mom thing. It was a distraction for the kids and an opportunity to watch something they didn’t normally get to see in such detail. There was also some boy-grossness when we talked about the worm being a high-protein snack for a bird.

      I’d look at worms all day if it kept the bickering to a minimum. 🙂

      1. Lorraine E. Castro

        But give yourself props for being engaged with your children. Who does that? I’m from L.A. and people play date their children out. I’m enjoying your mother/kiddos stuff vicariously!

  2. Ana

    I agree with the “great mom” comment. You helped them (all of you) find some peace.

  3. Ken Rolph

    “maybe he was on the lamb”

    Why did you spell that way? I’ve noticed other Americans doing it, yet the expression is supposed to have started in American English.

    Lamb is about sheep and comes from the Germanic branch, proposed as a proto Indo-European *lambaz. In a quite separate path the Scandinavian verb lemja (beat enough to cripple) eventually got taken up into the metaphor “beat it”. That came through the Old Norse lamthi or lamithr, the past forms of lemja. There’s a deep root here that also lead to the word lame.

    So lame leads to beat it and on the lam. Nothing to do with young sheep except the sound. But I’m sure you knew that anyway. It was probably just a typo.

    1. philangelus

      It was a boneheaded mistake, that’s all. I wrote in a hurry and didn’t reread.

      1. Ken Rolph

        It’s true that our fingers contain the memory of the shape of words, so they occasionally produce something other than what our mind intended. But I think there’s something more going on here. At the same time as I posted my message to you I was in a discussion about the word “tizz”, which seems to be specifically Australian. There are many words and expressions which belong to particular Englishes. It’s part of what makes life interesting.

        The reason I responded to you is that I’ve seen the lamb/lam thing a couple of times and always from Americans. There are a number of other words which seem to be misspelt by writers of particular Englishes. Obviously I only notice the ones outside of Australian English. So you have inspired i me the thought that in the same way as there are words specific to particular Englishes, there may also be errors which are specific to particular Englishes.

        So maybe you were not boneheaded, but just writing in bent American English.