Unlikely Plaything

Kids can be so cute, can’t they? The way they have endless curiosity about everything they see; their exuberance over new experiences that we have grown jaded to and take for granted; the wide-eyed openness to everything the world has to offer regardless of how taboo, odd, or grotesque. They’re simply amazing.

Take this video of a little girl traipsing around her front yard playing lovingly with a dead squirrel:

If it were a doll or a stuff animal or a photo of a family member I’d be letting all sorts off oohs and awwws escape my mouth. The only thing holding me back from sharing in her happiness is that it’s a freakin’ dead squirrel! Mouth agape, eyes rolled back in its head, limbs hanging heavy, neck slack, this squirrel is deader than dead. And recently dead. As in their dog just killed the poor thing. So of course, why not let the kid play with it. It’s the natural order of things, right?

I don’t wag my finger at the girl, though. She’s so young, she obviously doesn’t understand what her newest toy actually signifies. I’m more angered at the parents. The Dad who saw this as the perfect opportunity to grab a camera and film his daughter being so oblivious that it’s “cute” and the Mom who can only stand there, hands on her hips and smirk on her face, looking at the camera with an inner monologue that screams, “Don’t kids just do the darndest things!?” What is wrong with these parents?

You don’t have to agree with me, but in my opinion the Gods that be (or whoever you want to name) just gave them an absolutely perfect teaching opportunity about oh, I don’t know, empathy, compassion maybe, life being a sacred thing, and they squandered it. This could have been a prime moment to impress upon their child a lesson about the sanctity of life, the inevitability of death, and the respect that we can show the dearly departed. But no. What do they do instead? They mock the animal that tragically lost its life (in the jaws of the family dog no less…not even a natural death) and turn what could be a window into the frailty of life into playtime. The little girl sees the squirrel as a toy (again, not blaming her for this because she’s too young to know any different) and the parents just go along with this little show, encouraging it even — with the Dad calling the dog into his video masterpiece so he could introduce “the killer and the killed.”

I could also go off about the fact that his kid is rubbing a dead carcass all over her naked chest and the obvious health implications of that. I’m not saying that the squirrel definitely has fleas or a virus or a disease or whatever, but until I’m 100% certain a wild animal corpse isn’t going to pass along some transmittable illness, I wouldn’t want my kid laying a finger on it let alone using it for playtime. But I’ll let the other YouTube comments harp on that point.

My main concern centers around this one question: Where is the empathy? Clearly not with the parents and because of what they are either knowingly or unknowingly passing on, the kid has none either. What message does this send to their child? Sure, it’s all fun and games for now, but I wonder what they’ll do when she drags home a dead dog to play with.

7 thoughts on “Unlikely Plaything

  1. Thanks for calling attention to this video. Granted that empathy is important, not to mention hygiene: you should never touch a wild animal dead or alive, and even domestic animals are often carriers of parasites and introduce bugs into homes.

    But it’s also important to remind adults what it means to be a child, and to be gentle and patient with children as these parents were. I think the parents showed empathy to the child’s perspective.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! You’re right, they were extremely patient with the child as she played with the dead squirrel. Personally, I’m not sure that was the way to go. Yes, patience is ALWAYS the way to go. However, taking the squirrel away from her (as a play-toy) and instead teaching her empathy/compassion about the sanctity of life (and how animals also matter) AND being patient with her are NOT mutually exclusive. All of the above could have been accomplished. Of course that would not have made for a funny YouTube video.

  2. I agree with you totally, Wendy. This is not cute. This is creepy. And sad. Patience? I’m not saying scream and shout and make a scene. I’m saying firmly take the dead squirrel away, and, as you maintain, teach about animals and life and the importance of the relationship between us and them.

  3. I must have missed this little gem of a video. I have to agree, this is a major Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot moment, especially while watching the parents’ actions. There are days when you just want to go slappin’ folks until the stupids are expelled from their skulls.

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