Wednesday, August 13, 2008

mealtime manners

Isaac, it is safe to say, is a sensitive child. There are a growing number of books I cannot read him due to the fact that someone gets somehow lost for a sentence, or, god forbid a page or two, someone's mother is injured, angry or absent, or really any other conflict you can mention in which a misunderstanding causes characters to go through some brief turmoil. The end holds no sway over the means. Happy endings don't count for jack with my kid if along the way the wolf looked a tad cross-eyed at the pig. Pulling a book off the shelf at the library to read sight unseen can be disastrous.

Despite this kind of tender heart, he has never been fazed by the idea of animals eating other animals. “This dinosaur eats other dinosaurs,” he announces to me proudly, holding up his newest piece of plastic. “Woarrrrrr!” Indeed.

The other day, in fact, he wanted to know for the 100 millionth time since he's learned to speak what lions eat. It was that crucial time of day – 4 p.m. on a napless afternoon. “I don't know, Isaac,” I said wearily. “Maybe you can think about it,” he offered magnanimously. “Okay, I'm thinking...zebras?” At this point, you need to know if you've missed this fact, that children are NOT “sponges” in regard to information, as everyone is so very fond of saying. They are BLACKHOLES. Nothing satisfies these creatures. They are intellectual tapeworms who glom onto your brain and don't let go.

Consequently, Isaac asks what he always asks next, “What ELSE lions eat?”

As I was sitting next to a computer that happened to be turned on, I caved to the ready answer of the 21st century and typed “lion diet” into Google. I read off the list to Isaac: “Zebra, giraffe, buffalo, gazelles, wildebeest, and impala.”

“Me wanna see pictures of lions eating.”

“No you don't.”

“Yeah, me wanna see PICTURES!!!!” (This speaking in all capital letters, while not new to the cadence of my son's speech, has recently taken on more nuance - read: Attitude.)

Reluctantly, I brought up a couple small photos.

“That a zebra?”

“It appears to be,” I tell him, peering at the thumbnail of an unfortunate striped leg in the center of a pride of lions. I glance at the picture beside that one. “Oh, look, we can add 'hyena' to our list, too, Iz.”

He leans into the computer screen at the bloodied mouth of a young cub.

“Hey! Let's do something else now!” I suggest.

Yesterday, a friend took me to lunch in Big Sur for my birthday after we picked up our respective wee ones from preschool. Driving down it was gorgeous, as always - the hills putting on a burlesque show with their wardrobes of fog until they were wearing nothing but sunshine.

“Look, Iz, look at that hawk!” The big ole wings were hovering in the blue just ahead of the car.

“Hawks eat fish?” he asks.

Brightened by this change of syntax and line of questioning, I'm refreshed, buoyant even, in answering.

“Yeah, I think so. I mean, they would. I've seen pictures of eagles with fish in their talons, so I guess hawks would eat fish too. But they aren't really fishing birds like pelicans. They also eat stuff like mice, nun-nuns (our left over baby word for your general rodent)...and rabbits...” I add a moment later.



Silence, then, “Me wike wabbits.”

I'm taken back. This hesitation is new. Flashes of hyena fur run through my mind and the mystery of what goes on behind those blue eyes in the back seat deepens. “I like rabbits too, honey. Is it hard to think about something eating them?”

“Me wike wabbits!” he repeats defiantly. “Hawks shouldn't eat wabbits. That's WUDE!”


bobbie said...

What I love most about this post is the hills' burlesque show! Now that is a picture!

I like wabbits too! Everything is relative, isn't it. And eagles are rude.

Dianne said...

"Maybe you can think about it" - that killed me!

My son used to ask - "are you making up that answer cause you can't be bothered?"

Happy Belated Birthday.

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