Sunday, May 12, 2013

Using Writing for Difficult and Emotional Conversations: A Vegan Mama and Son Discuss Killing a Snake

It was the day to pick some greens for dinner. After five years of trying to DIY, our work finally paid off. We were all excited.

But as I opened the net around my vegetable garden, I screamed because I thought a snake was about to pounce on me. When it didn't, we discovered that the snake managed to get stuck in between the net and its esophagus was hanging out of its mouth. I prodded it with a stick and it was still very much alive. 

We thought the Common Garter would die shortly, but after 24 hours it was still reacting to my prods - but much slower.  I just could not bare to leave it to die a slow death, so I decided to end its life quickly. 

My Kindergarten son was all for it, "Let's put it out of its misery! I'll give you an award Mama!"

Although as a Vegan, I have always taught our son not to kill animals, I didn't think much about his comment.  So, I did what I had to do - quickly.

My son's response from behind a bush was a little scared, "Mama! I'm not watching! I'm not watching!"

Then proud, still behind the bush, "You are awesome Mama! You win a badge! An award! You're the bravest Mama!"

Then angry, walking back inside the house, "I don't want to see you anymore!!!"

Then with sad tears as he hides in the bathroom by himself, "You're not a good Mama!"

OH DEAR. What have I done?

After five minutes, he approached me a little calmer. I explained what happened but he still was clearly  upset. He did not want to listen to what I was saying.  

We used a journal he just created today during pretend play to work through his emotions and the snake situation. By writing to each other as other characters Murray (my son) and Lexie (me), my son was able to feel better about an emotional situation.
"Just released: The Lost Journal of Jones Murray and His Sidekick Lexie Jones"
Son wrote:
"Me and Lexie saw a skink today that was brown. We looked it up!
I was talking to a Lady Bug while Lexie was taking pictures of a Dragonfly!
Looked for wood for camp and saw an almost dead snake and..."
Son continued:
"...put it out of its misery! Draw Here: Dead, dead, dead and not buried!"
Mama wrote:
"Heck! Today, I, a Vegan, had to do the most horrible deed! I had to kill a fellow animal.
The snake had been in severe pain for 24 hours and was still alive! It's jaw was hanging out and broken.
I didn't know if the heart, lungs and body were still functioning. It was in clear pain and would never be able to eat again.
I got big clippers and cut its head off to put it out of its misery. I felt both good and bad.
Bad because I beheaded it. Good because it wasn't in pain anymore. It was the right thing to do."
Son wrote:
"The snake was caught in a net with its neck twisted."
Son wrote:
"At first I felt angry and stayed away from Lexie. But then I figured it was the right thing to do!
When I was angry, I wrote the first 4 to 5 pages before Lexie wrote her one page in my diary!
She is smart. She knows what to do always."
"PLAY" helped my son understand the situation.

But I kick myself as I write this... I could have handled it differently.


  1. I woke in the middle of the night, agonizing over the snake tangled in the net for 24 hours. Why did you not simply cut him/her free and let nature take its course? Perhaps s/he would have lived, but in any case you would not have had to kill it. Leaving it tangled made death inevitable.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I agonized over it too... But the guts were out the first day. It wouldn't have survived... It was dying slowly and the vultures were circling above it. I could have had nature just solve the problem I guess, but that didn't seem to be a humane thing to do.

  3. P.S. I was too scared to untangle it the first night... I thought it would be surely dead overnight, but instead it was dying very slowly.

  4. We found a lizard here that died the same way. It was two years ago, but it still makes me feel really sad.