I am the mother of a tail-ender. In many ways an only child and the last child of older parents, he has a deep advantage: we are tired. We are tired and our once high standards have fallen dramatically over the years. Our previous, earnest parenting motto 'Go forth and conquer the world!' has been replaced with 'Meh. Just do whatever…'
This is precisely how I came to live with reptiles: it was the combination of being too tired to fight the demands of our youngest son and an honest belief to just let him be happy (and hopefully quiet for a little while).
Yes, I like nature. No, I do not like nature in my home. I'm a little gun shy. Over the years, without invitation, nature has helped itself to our homes: misguided birds, mice, groundhogs, raccoons and a colony of rats - yes, that's right – we spent a summer sharing our 250 year-old cellar with a colony of recently sprung sewer rats.
'I said no,' was not a deterrent for our son. He kept begging for a lizard and we finally caved. Though I was certain the lizard would escape and lunge at me from a dark pile of laundry, I was wrong. The lizard's food, the crickets, lunged at me every time I opened a drawer, but the lizard himself, was a lovely little house mate. He had an eager little face resembling a Japanese animated character.
My son's next reptile was a baby Jungle Carpet Python who came to us over-nighted from the East Coast. He cost more than I am comfortable admitting. His name is Monty. Because I was certain this python would escape and end up in the laundry, we invested in the top of the line, Fort Knox of tanks. Houdini himself could not escape this tank. Monty's colorings are stunning, he could be a snake model. He is very fussy, both a picky eater and a fastidious housekeeper. He is aloof. If he comes to the window of his cage at all, it is to judge you as a person and also what you are wearing. He acts desperately bored when people engage with him. If snakes could roll their eyes, sigh, light up a cigarette and demand more champagne, this snake would. He's like the Mariah Carey of snakes.
Naga, the corn snake, was a rescue. She was free. She's ugly. She can't coil delicately like other snakes. She lives in a basic tank with a wobbly screen top because I no longer give much thought to snakes in my laundry room. She's a slob, like my twelve year-old son. No matter how much you clean his room or her tank, both immediately revert back to a state of disarray. She is a total busybody. You can't sneak into my son's room without Naga poking her head out from her favorite hollowed rock to see what's going on. She is happiest when the room is packed with people and she can watch what everyone is doing. Give her fresh bedding and she'll happily dig new tunnels with a smile on her face. She is eternally grateful and adorable, the labrador puppy of snakes.
My son is wearing us down. There is, no doubt, another reptile in his (our) future. Other than the extreme heat that radiates from his room with all the lamps and heating pads, I can't find a reason to say no.
His love of reptiles gifted me with an angle of conservation I had never considered: saving the slithery, creepy, crawly types is important, too. It wasn't too long ago, I felt about snakes the way I do about sewer rats. Funny, what a little education can do for a person's views. But, in case you are wondering, I doubt I'll be warming to sewer rats any time soon.