At the age of three and a half is when my now eight year olds love affair with animals began; it started as a steady crush with Zebra’s and Giraffes, he was completely fascinated with them; every outing, every trip to the mall, everything that we did somehow involved these two animals. I was pregnant with baby number two so his fascination with anything Zebra and Giraffes was in my eyes a great distraction for him, something he could call his own. Like a sponge, he absorbed all he could about the Zebra and Giraffe; any toy, book, stuffed animals, movie, coloring books, really anything we did, or bought had to involve a Zebra, or Giraffe and if involved both animals it was a huge bonus. His love for these animals went every where with us, when he went to get his hair cut he insisted on getting a Mohawk so he could look like a Zebra.
At age the of four and a half his love for Zebra and Giraffes waned, just a tad, as he began to soak up facts and trivia about every other animal out there from horses to birds to turtles to platypus to snakes to lions, tigers and bears, oh my! The amount of knowledge that he acquired was intimating to me. He’d randomly fire off facts about the red tailed hawk at a moment’s notice that when he started to call himself an animal expert I ran with it; he was so confident and passionate in his delivery of the facts about any animal whether it was a silverback gorilla or sea turtle, it didn’t matter if he was wrong, he believed it, I believed it and I certainly was not equipped with any counter arguments. Plus he was so damn cute, he’d spit out these facts faster than Mike Tyson knocking someone out, how could anyone possibly argue with him?
At age five he discovered the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, National Geographic and Bindi The Jungle Girl* which has been, for the last three years on a constant rotation in our house.
At the age of six and a half, on two separate occasions, he stumped Jungle Jack Hanna (at his show) and the Chief Bear Keeper at the Bronx Zoo (who’s been there for 20 years) in front of a room full of people during their presentations. Both experts basically said to him “Wow, that’s an amazingquestion, I don’t know, I’ll have to think about that” which had me both stunned, proud and perplexed - - he stumped not one but two experts. Hmmmp.
It was at this stage of the animal loving game that I have to be honest I was a little nervous. Having that much passion for one subject was foreign to me, as a child I didn’t have a passion for anything, so it was hard for me to wrap my head around this, I’d often ponder the questions over and over: how can one six year old boy devour and absorb that many animal facts? Was it odd, strange, abnormal for a boy of his age to know this much about animals? It wasn’t the average facts that you learn in elementary school that had me asking these questions, it was the obscure facts that he’d pull out at random times, like after he’d jump off the high diving board, he run past me and in all in one breathe yell:
“Mom, did you know that the closet living relative to the Elephant is the Rock Hyrax, it lives in rocks in the Saharan Desert.”
I’d often reply with such enthusiastic “really, that’s great” before he jump back into the pool, I'd then mumble to myself what the hell is a Rock Hyrax?
In every other regard he is like the average kid his age, he likes to play outside, he loves to run around and get dirty and can climb anything with such ease I sometimes wonder if he could be part monkey but that would mean, you know, so that ain’t true.
The other day I received a text from my sister, her son needed to borrow a few Cheetah figurines for his diorama project, she knew we had them, we have so many little pesky plastic animals thrown in every corner of our house; personally I try to avoid them like land mines cause if I hit an antler of adeer, or a rhino’s horn the pain is excruciating, and I'm limbing for days. When I asked my eight year old if his cousin can borrow a Cheetah or two, he fired off a real fast reply "we may only have two Cheetahs, if any." I replied just as quick “we have more animals than Carter has liver pills, how can we not have any Cheetah’s” he looked at me strangely (because really, how many liver pills does Carter have?), and said“Cheetah’s have distinct markings, black circles, with a pattern that actually looks like little roses, unlike the Jaguar that…”I lost him because I was in awe; out of the two dozen big cat figurines that were now spilling out of my hands I only saw two Cheetah’s.
I quickly shot off a text to my sister telling her what happened, ending it with: Can he be that smart? Her one word response: YES in all caps. It was at this distinct moment that I realized that this kid is smart, in the very least smarter than a 42 year old, a little quirky, but smart, smart as a whip. I should have realized it after he received 100 after, 100, after 105 on his tests but I didn’t this moment defined it for me, because really who the hell knows that a Cheetahs spots are in the shape of a rose?
|With his pet lizard, a bearded dragon "Scales", we also have two fish, and two frogs, |
an adopted Zebra in Africa, and he requests a dog almost daily.
*Bindi The Jungle Girl is The Crocodile Hunter’s, Steve Irwin’s, daughter, and has an adorable show about animals as well as a fabulous series of books – which appeals to all children, animal loving or not.