A dying mouse, July 2010
A dying mouse.

The girls found a mouse today. It’s a mystery to me where the mouse came from, but when the girls called me to come have a look, it was just lying there, on its side in the lawn in front of the swing-set. It was still alive, but breathing heavily and mostly paralysed — probably from poison or did someone step on its hind legs by mistake? I’m not sure.

Brioni, 3yo, Aisha, 5yo, + Calista, 2yo, July 2010
The girls crouched around the mouse, examining its features and watching it breathe.

Later I moved the mouse into a plastic container so the girls could continue to look at it without the ants tearing bits off it in front of their eyes. They touched it carefully, petting its fur and marvelling at its toes.

We talked about how the mouse was dying. The girls could see the mouse’s laboured breaths as its chest heaved, and I explained how they could tell when it was finally dead.

Despite all this, they did want to feed it and give it something to drink. I threw some oats into the container, which it was lively enough to sniff at — but as I didn’t want to deal with a soggy mouse, I drew the line at allowing the girls to put a small bowl of water in the container.

I’m not squeamish about the girls handling dead animals, as I see that it’s a vital part of teaching them about the cycle of life and death that comes to us all. But I was also astounded at how matter-of-fact they were about the mouse’s impending demise. After Aisha finished lunch and hopped down to go play again, Brioni called out to her: “Just have a check if he’s dead yet.”

The girls kept it by their side during rest-time, and after an hour or so, Brioni brought it to me (holding it in her hands!) and told me that it was dead. After insisting that she wash her hands again (“I will,” she promised.) we decided to bury the mouse.

A mouse's funeral transport, July 2010
Aisha took the mouse to its final resting spot in style...

A mouse's funeral procession, July 2010
A carriage pulled by two fine white horses...

They left the mouse in an old tree stump, buried with a covering of assorted leaves and twigs. Although it may start to smell, that spot may also be a good choice because it may allow the girls to examine the skeleton after the ants have taken the mouse’s flesh away. Perhaps I’ll check in a couple weeks…