the day without the squirrels

After hearing about the sand dunes and the red squirrels at Formby, I wanted to make it out to there last summer but for unknown reasons, didn’t. So two weeks ago, when Lucy suggested a trip out to Formby to see the squirrels, I jumped at the chance to go so together with her and Carrie and our collective brood of seven little humans, we hopped a train out to the squirrel reserve.

The funny thing is that at the reserve, I saw all of one squirrel. Granted, I didn’t look very hard (if at all) and most of our time was spent watching the kids dig in the sand and climbing trees in the picnic area, but having never been before, I truly expected squirrels to be running rampant, to be inhabiting every tree hollow, to be perched in every branch (okay, every other branch). But alas, they must all have been on vacation or scared off by the Easter break crowd. Urban squirrels are common back home. When we lived in Ottawa, the squirrels would scamper along the window sill outside, much to our cat’s frustration. Perhaps we currently live in too urbanized an area for there to be squirrels. Beyond the odd sighting in a park on the outskirts, I can quite safely say I’ve seen nary a squirrel in the almost two-and-a-half years I’ve been here. I do miss them a little.

It was more or less a decent day, hanging out with Carrie and Lucy in the sunshine and watching the kids run free. Because we were there with the intention of walking and seeing the squirrels, none of us were prepared for sand play. The kids borrowed buckets and shovels from some others who did have the foresight to bring beach equipment. Beginning with Evie, the girls wanted to be mermaids with sand tails. I was surprised Raspberry did too, as she typically doesn’t care for mermaids. Ares had a ball crawling around and digging in the sand and of course, eating it (well, it was on a stick that he decided to chew). When the sand got boring, he discovered a log to straddle. I felt bad taking him away from that as we were leaving.

Unlike Ares, Raspberry was on edge, and cried repeatedly from the moment we arrived, about various travesties like being startled by a door shutting in her face or a broken stick or accidentally poking herself in the leg or being unable to come down from a ledge two inches above the ground. By the end of our time in Formby, I’d had it and was infinitesimally close to losing my mind. I’m almost certain there was no less than ten instances when she cried or howled. It wasn’t until later that evening when I was unpacking my backpack and finding most of her uneaten pizza, that I realized that her episodes were probably due to hunger (we’d all eaten on the train ride there and I’d thought she’d eaten more than she actually did). Talking it over with Lucas later, we were acutely reminded of the mismatch between her age, her intelligence, and her emotional regulation. We established that the next time something like this happens again, I need to be firm and we’ll be leaving whatever place we’re at, in an effort to remove the triggers. Thus far, nothing on this scale has yet occurred (thankfully!) so we haven’t had to put this into practise yet. Fingers crossed that we won’t ever have to, but I think it’s a pipe dream.

Anyway, obviously we’ll have to go back to the reserve to properly seek some squirrels out. Note to self: it’ll be during term time and it’ll be with a well-rested, properly-fed child.

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