An Updated Turtle Lesson

The hole from which the baby snapping turtles emerged

The turtle eggs hatched! More than three months after a snapping turtle laid her eggs in the mulch of our front yard, the baby turtles emerged from this hole.

Back in June, we researched the length of time for these eggs to hatch. We waited and watched. We expected them to emerge after our early-August vacation, but nothing happened all month.

We waited some more. The kids went back to school, and a teacher asked her students for a snapping turtle baby to observe in the classroom. We looked, but still no change.

Then we wondered. Late summer closed unseasonably cool. Maybe the weather had been too cold this year for the eggs to do what they needed to do.

Did something happen? We worried. Many said predators probably got them. But we knew the garden remained undisturbed the whole three months.

Finally, we stopped looking and decided maybe those turtle babies just weren’t to be.

But then, when Paul and I were away one evening, we received a frantic message on the cell phone. Our son called to tell us that the turtles had hatched and many had been crushed in the cul-de-sac. Construction trucks and equipment had worked all day laying asphalt on our neighbor’s driveway.

Hysterics from our kids followed, and we couldn’t get the full story until morning. The babies had been as small as rocks, and many had died on the road where they’d all lined up together on their journey to the water. NH buried one that was still intact.

But still, one turtle lived! A neighbor girl promised to bring lake water for the turtle but instead, she released it in the lake by her house. Part of the tears at home were for the lost turtles. Part were for the neighbor taking over “our turtles.”

Even with all that distress, they saw that one little baby in it’s new, wiggly, ugly and confused state. “Like a newborn,” Paul said.

With the story complete and the nature lessons learned, I investigated the birth spot in the morning. I didn’t find much—just a tunnel in the ground with a small hole from which the turtles emerged.

I stared down that dark hole into the tunnel of mixed emotions we’d experienced the last few months as we watched life begin. The pattern of waiting, wondering, worrying and eventual resolution repeats itself so often in our families that I now know it’s normal. It’s part of the process. Nurturing our families is a faith-based work. The mother turtle knew that. And I know that, too.


  1. terena
    Sep 28, 2009

    how sad. I would be devastated, too. to wait so long and then have the babies be killed like that. I’m very happy to hear that one baby made it.

  2. Rebecca
    Sep 29, 2009

    What a meaningful thought to pull from this situation. It makes me wonder- Since it’s a pattern that repeats itself, perhaps we can remove the worrying part- since we know the eventual resolution will occur?

  3. Andrea
    Sep 29, 2009

    What a miracle that one of those babies was able to survive and what an amazing lesson for the children! This just reminds us that life is indeed fragile.

    The waiting-wondering-worrying cycle you described is a great point! For me, I often get so caught up in worry mode, that it’s hard for me to move on. And you’re so right about how nurturing our families is a faith-based work. We often have to step out into the unknown and take that trust walk with God.

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story!

  4. Debs
    Sep 30, 2009

    oh boy, how bitter-sweet a story.

    not sure if i feel tearful now or not!


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