I could see the toddlers wheels turning. "How did this pile of dirt get here? I didn't put that there. This must be a trick." The first time he saw an ant crawl out of there, he immediately backed up. "What is this mystical, miniature being? There is no way that one of those could have moved all this dirt." The first time he saw me kick an ant pile and all the ants scatter? Pure chaos. "There's a million of them! We're being invaded!" He took off for safety immediately, otherwise known as Mama.
You more senior parents out there already know what huge mistake that was. Little man immediately took to using whatever objects were available to destory every ant hill he encountered. This was especially difficult becaus we were trying to impart to him how ants would hurt him. You could see the indecision gripping him. He would run up to the ant pile with ball in hand, ready to do battle. He would stop about two feet away and look back at me as if asking,"Are we going to war today or running for our lives?" I felt for him. No toddler warrior can work in this kind of environment.
We have managed to strike a balance in our relationship with ants now. We have adopted the same relationship with them that we use for strangers. That is, you are nice but wary. Thus, walking across our back yard with him is punctuated by stopping multiple times so he can wave at each ant hill and yell at the top of his lungs,"Hey, ants!" He will then stoop down to inspect each pile before moving on to the next one.
As icing on the cake, he has even figured out that each hill is the ants' home. Unfortunately, this has presented him with an entirely new set of problems. We are now at the stage where finding an ant outside of an ant hill is the equivalant of seeing a missing child when an amber alert is going on. He starts screaming,"Oh no! Ant, ant, ant!" I've even overheard him sternly telling a solitary ant marching across our driveway that it needed to go home immediately. Fortunately, I haven't witnessed any rescue attempts as of yet. We all know how well that would go. Toddler warrior would return and unleash Hiroshima on the ant population of greater Berkeley County. Our family just doesn't roll like that.