We were sitting at the kitchen table playing Apples to Apples with some friends when my 6-year-old son came in with a special announcement and follow-up question.
The announcement: “We found a bunny in the yard!”
The follow-up question: “Can we catch him?”
We took a moment to visualize a pack of jubilant children being quickly outrun by a frantic hare before offering responses, which ranged from “Knock yourself out” to “Good luck with that one.”
You might imagine our surprise when, a few minutes later, the aforementioned 6-year-old came back inside with another special announcement:
“We got him!”
But there was another follow-up:
“But he got away.”
We kind of saw that coming. But not this:
“He’s still in the garage.”
Enter parental intervention. I went into the garage with him, and he told me the bunny ran behind the stuff on the side of the garage…folded beach chairs, cornhole boards, sleds, brooms, etc. Behind the beach chairs I found a small baby bunny. I moved the chairs slowly. The bunny didn’t move a whisker. I picked him up gently, and he jumped from my hands. My son grabbed him…not rough, but I’m sure it wasn’t comfortable for the bunny. He gave him to me, and I held him in one cupped hand, the other hand closed over his body so he wouldn’t jump again.
The other kids gathered round. The air reverberated with seven-dozen Can-I-Hold-Hims (there were only 6 kids, you do the math). I took a moment to imagine myself in the bunny’s soft brown fur, getting grasped groped and squeezed by a dozen grubby mitts.
“No,” I said out of the kindness of my heart. “But you can pet him.”
The grubby mitts reached out to pet the bunny, still safe in my hands. Then the same complaint was repeated from all six mouths: “I didn’t get to hold him yet!”
“None of you have,” I explained. Then they asked the inevitable: “Can we keep him?”
I explained how he was scared, he missed his mommy, his mommy missed him, he could get sick, he could get eaten by our neurotic schnauzer, etc.
“So we can keep him?”
I fixed up a box, and we put the bunny in it with spinach, carrots, and a tiny cup of water. The bunny didn’t move. To its credit, it didn’t produce a single little rabbit pellet through this entire ordeal (NOTE: I would have produced several thousand. These kids were terrifying.) I taught the kids how to hold him…not to grab him around the middle, but to let him sit on their hands. Each got a turn to hold the bunny before we released him into the woods behind the house. There’s a big pile of old brush insulated with fallen leaves that I’m pretty certain houses a dozen bunnies and countless squirrels. The kids were sad they didn’t get to keep him, but overall it was a good experience for everyone.