The Land of Lizards

We live in Florida, the land of lizards. They come in many shapes and sizes — small, scaly, quick. Large, green, scary.

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(Photo credit: Vicki’s Nature via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND)

But the little ones — brown anoles, like the one above — aren’t scary enough for a speedy 5-year-old or a determined 4-year-old. Just ask my boys.

Sometimes the lizards get into our screened porch and hide under pool floats or furniture. They’re mostly trying to play keep away from a feisty cat who, despite his advancing age, still loves to hunt. Most times they can’t escape his claws or the prying hands of my sons.

For my two boys catching these lizards is a challenge they are all too eager to meet. Watching them is like watching that scene in “Rocky” where Mickey trains Rocky by having him chase chickens around a fenced-in yard. The lizards scamper this way and that along the screens on the porch, edging themselves into tight corners where tiny fingers cannot reach them. But the lizards are usually not able to match the persistence of a fearless child. Soon enough, the anoles are in the clutches of the boys and my wife and ! are screaming at them to loosen their grip, lest a Lenny from “Of Mice and Men” moment occur.

The other day each of my son’s caught a lizard and followed me to the yard where we performed our catch and release function. Before the lizard could run too far my 4-year-old bent down and petted him saying, “You’re my new friend, lizard.” That’s good parenting stuff right there.

When one of the anoles manages to get inside out house, which happens more often than you would think, 5 is the designated lizard catcher. I think he feels proud that he is so good at trapping them and Lord knows my wife wants nothing to do with it. Which is odd because she loves to tell the story about how, as a child, she and her sisters would catch lizards and clamp them to their ears to wear like earrings. Weird.

Here’s why I really love that my kids are lizard catchers. Because when I was a kid I wanted nothing to do with creepy crawley’s or bugs or crawfish or anything that slithered or scurried away when the lights came on. Maybe it’s genetic. My father doesn’t go for that stuff either. That’s why I want my kids to have the courage to pick up a lizard, examine it, study it and see it for what it is — a creature that shares our planet. I want them to be fascinated by the nature around them and determined to understand it. In other words, I want them to be the opposite of me.

How about you? What areas of your life do you want your kids to be unlike you?

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