What Copperheads and Control have in Common


ooooooh it's a snake
ooooooh it's a snake

“WHAT IS THAAAAAT?” I knew I was almost shouting.  I also couldn’t help myself.

I was trying very hard not to sound too alarmed. Several pairs of round orbs sought my face for a reaction. I knew this was make or break time. I also knew if I over reacted, it would be just another extreme reaction from a parent and they wouldn’t listen. My 7 year old son and a group of his friends were dangling a baby copper head on a stick and I resisted the urge to run.

“Are you scared?” They waited for my reaction.

“What?…nnn…oooh?” I hedged.

One of the other kid’s dads standing next to me piped in. “Do you know what that is?”

“A BABY COPPER HEAD!!!” They chorused.

“And do you know what could happen if you got bit by one of those?” His incredulous voice reverberated sternly into the Spring pollen filled air of North Carolina.

“Yeah! You could die!” One of the older kids chimed in.

He then descended into a litany of things that could happen if they played around with snakes. For good measure he pointed out all the areas they were Never to  play in on the neighborhood playground. Their ever-widening eyes  took in the terrible news as they realized we were basically telling them to avoid all the fun areas on the playground. They were not to play in the stream flowing next to the playground. They were not to turn over rocks in the stream. They were to stay away from the tunnel through which the stream flowed. They were also to avoid the trees beyond the playground housing little coves where they often pretended to hide treasure in.

The multiple pairs of eyes soon took on the all too familiar hooded expression of one who has ceased listening to the terrible news being delivered to them. I knew that look. My son gave it to me all the time. It meant, ‘I will listen to you because you told me it’s respectful but as soon as you turn your back, I will do exactly what you are telling me not to do.’  At that point, I knew I didn’t have much control but we still had to tell them the dangers of digging up copper heads in the snake filled environs of North Carolina.

Control, or lack thereof is very much part of our daily lives. We make plans in an effort to control outcomes. The making of plans and in this case, the issuing of warnings was really an act of trust. There is inherent trust in what the future will unfold once we have made our plans. My hope of course that day was that my son would heed our warnings. I also knew if he didn’t, he most likely wouldn’t tell me and it was completely beyond my control what he would decide to do when faced with the delectable choice of digging up snakes. But the alternative was to never let him play with his friends in that playground. This would ensure he didn’t get bitten by a snake and he wouldn’t have to make a choice to dig one up with his friends. But then again there are many other places to find Copperheads in the snake riddled state we call home. So alas! I would have to give up control and let him play with his friends under my watchful eye and trust he would heed our warnings.

The desire for control is the reason most of us are at a loss when events transpire reminding us we are really not in control of the future. Plans help us have a hand in the outcome. But in the end the outcome is not of our making.

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