My oldest son is a real-life Dennis the Menace. He is sweet and caring about others with a deep yearning for adventure that tends to be a tad mischievous.

This kid loves exploring and discovering things; and what I found in his backpack one morning was certainly a discovery.

His curiosity about the world makes my heart feel full; but I have to admit, sometimes in the midst of his adventure I am not always admiring.

Not long ago, I saw a picture online of a dead squirrel in a backpack. A teacher sent a picture of the squirrel to a parent to notify her that her son had brought a little surprise in his backpack.

My sister tagged me in this picture, floating around Facebook, because it is totally something one of my boys would do, especially my DtheM.

A favorite memory popped into my mind of one adventurous torture he forced me to experience.

One morning, when he was about 7 years old, I was getting ready to take him and his siblings to school. I looked up and saw he was standing in the doorway of the bathroom with his backpack, looking especially suspicious. I asked, “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” was his not-so-innocent reply.

“What is in your backpack?”

He did not answer me, so I went to investigate. I grabbed his backpack and rummaged through it. I can still see the look on his face as I rummaged. He had the, “what will she do when she finds it” look. His look is forever etched in my mind and will bring a smile or chuckle from time to time, especially when I reminisce the times of when he was younger.

Not finding anything, I asked him, “What is in here?”

“A mitten,” he replied.

“A mitten?” I asked very skeptically.

When rummaging, I had felt something soft and “cloth like,” so I placed my hand back in the backpack and rummaged again. Finally finding the item, I pulled it out.

In my hand was a little dead garden snake — a real one. It is funny what happens when you are startled, or should I say scared, from a major surprise.

I ran for my life without moving an inch and let out a humiliating scream. My little blue-eyed DtheM was completely terrified.

I am laughing while reliving this experience. He was terrified because he had never seen me act like that and he had no idea what I was going to do.

Trying to figure it all out, I remembered that he had found the little snake the day before. It was on its deathbed when he brought it in to show me. I advised him to toss it over the fence and let it die in peace.

Instead, he had smuggled it into the house and placed it in the little silver jewelry dish I keep on the bathroom counter. He did let it die in peace, only not in the way I expected.

That morning he collected his treasure and placed it in his backpack so he could take it to school and show his friends.

When I finally regained my innards, I commanded him to remove the snake from the house; but this time I made sure he complied.

I took him to school and imagined his teachers lavishing thanks and appreciation for intervening and preventing the present from surprising them. In reality, they never knew.

Now, this is a story I retell for entertainment purposes. I advise groups of children not to place snakes, spiders, scorpions or any critter dead or alive in their backpacks.

I always get a good laugh from the children, and I imagine parents everywhere displaying their appreciation for saving them from a “guess what my son did” experience.

Jennifer Watson is a Herald correspondent.

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