Anyone that knows me well, knows I absolutely love my back deck. A few years ago, my husband completely demolished and rebuilt it, so it now includes a screened-in porch. At the end of a long day, I like to sit out there, turn on the fan, and just absorb the cacophony of sounds – the birds, the wind, dogs barking, kids playing outside, etc.
One project I took on myself was negotiating my relationship with the squirrels. It all began when I received a window-mounted bird feeder as a gift. Look how lovely that is – a sweet cardinal couple sharing a meal. I would sit on my stool in the kitchen while making dinner and enjoy the view, trying to identify the various species of birds that stopped in for a bite.
And then, just like that, the honeymoon was over. One morning I woke up to hear the tell-tale scurrying across my roof, and I knew. I knew exactly what was happening.
It was this:
And the next day, it was this:
As you can imagine, there was some cursing and plotting of revenge. This was my little oasis after all! But after reflection, I decided to show grace and mercy instead. We could compromise. So, I invested in Squirrel Private Dining. A table was built just for them, in which the finest seeds were served twice daily. And they loved it. We even got flying squirrels during the late shift.
Peace was restored on the back porch, and I could once again enjoy watching all the fauna right where they belonged.
Until I couldn’t. Because apparently, “Squirrel Private Dining” wasn’t good enough. They wanted dessert too. Just by the sheer weight of their greed, they managed to destroy, then apparently, pee, on my beautiful bird feeder. (I taped it back). And don’t get me started on the in-fighting – the concept of sharing went right out the window.
My next move was psychological – I stepped up my squirrel food game so that they would only want to eat in Private Dining. I went to the critter store and got the premium bag – we’re talking peanuts, corn, sunflower meat, the best. That seemed to do the trick, and the incidence of bird feeder pirating went down significantly. We then settled back into a lovely co-existence – the birds, the squirrels, and I – and life was grand again.
Until it wasn’t. One day, I suddenly realized they were gone. I had not seen a brown, grey, or flying squirrel for days and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
How dare they?! They were so hell-bent on gorging themselves, and now they ghost me? Did they tire of the food? Did they find someone better? Did they see my Instagram post complaining about them? What did I do wrong?
It gnawed away at me so much that I finally pulled out my computer and googled “Where did the squirrels from my yard go?” and the search results blew up! Turns out, this is “a thing” and I am not alone. Entire towns have been calling up their local wildlife experts, worried about the squirrels. And the reasons for their disappearance are not simple – it could be related to shorter life spans, preference for natural foods vs. birdseed, which are located deeper in the forest, mass migrations, rainy seasons that make nesting difficult but natural food more plentiful – it was fascinating and also a relief to know it wasn’t my fault, that this is just the natural order of things.
As moms, I think we are constantly negotiating for space in our world. The space to breathe, to build friendships, to pursue our career goals and personal interests, and, for newer moms, the space to go potty in peace. We bend and flex and adapt to keep our worlds together and everyone happy in our organized chaos. And then, one day, as is the natural order of things, your little squirrels move on, and you want that chaos back.
I am adjusting to the changes. I have accepted that instead of squirrels, I now have chickadees, nuthatches, and the occasional chipmunk. I have half a bag of food that I keep on a shelf for when my squirrels come back. And when they do, I will know it is temporary, and I will enjoy every minute that I have with them until it is time to let them go again.