I watched the creature slither for a minute. “I don’t know.” I shrugged at Alex. “Maybe he’s going to his mommy.” I stopped and squatted down next to my son. Two observers of the creature’s arduous journey. “Maybe.” Alex reached over and picked up the snail between finger and thumb. Its slimy body wiggled as my son placed it in his palm and pushed it towards me. I studied the lines on the brown shell, the spiraling antennae, the fluid movement of the head and trunk. I guess, in its own funny way, the snail really was pretty. “Shall we help it go home?” I suggested. Alex smiled broadly. “He misses his mommy.” “OK.” I gingerly picked up the snail from my son’s palm and, holding it at arm’s length by the shell, I ambled over to an unplanted section of our backyard garden. Alex followed and together we placed the snail down gently on the soft dirt. “Good-bye, Mr. Snail,” I said, as I brushed off my hands with a flourish. “Bye-bye.” My son aptly mimicked my gesture. I couldn’t hide a smile. Holding hands, we started back slowly toward the car. “Is he going to find his mommy?” Alex’s voice had a tinge of worry. “Yes. His mommy’s waiting for him and loves him very much.” I picked Alex up and gave him a big hug, then carried him half-upside down on a zigzag path down our driveway to the accompaniment of his giggles. Once on the road, I finally checked my watch. After dropping Alex off, I’d have just enough time to make it to the office. I might even have to hurry so I wouldn’t be late. I looked in the rearview mirror and waved at my smiling son. Yes, I’d have to hurry. But not until after Alex and I had enjoyed our drive to day care. Everything else would just have to wait. Linda Reid Chassiakos, M.D., director of the Klotz Student Health Center at California State University, Northridge, is a mom who is still trying to find the right balance between work and home.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I had almost made it to the car. I looked behind me – Alex was nowhere to be found. Retracing my steps back to the house, I finally saw him, crouched on the patio, intently gazing at the tiles. “Come on, Alex,” I shouted, the words sounding absurd even to my ears. “We’re going to be late for day care!” I wasn’t due at the office for an hour at least. “Mommy, look!” My 3-year-old looked up and smiled as I walked towards him. “See?” I looked where his tiny finger was pointing. Centered on one of the tiles was a very ugly brown snail. Alex had turned back and focused his eyes on the creature, which was undulating across our patio, millimeter by millimeter. “A snail!” Alex said excitedly. “Come on, Alex, we have to go.” I was getting desperate to finish my mothering duties for the morning, after having rushed to get my two other children ready for the school bus in the nick of time. My day planner was filled with important chores, and I had even hoped to have some extra time at work to clear off some projects from my desk before deadline. Alex was oblivious. “He’s pretty,” was the only reply. I resisted the urge to shiver. Snakes and snails and puppy dogs’ tails … “Where’s he going?” Alex asked.