I used to think it was a joke but as the parent of a three and a half year-old, I know first hand that kids endlessly ask questions. What’s interesting is the evidence of his developing awareness:
- Why does the moon follow us?
- Where do birds go at night?
- Why do some people have dark skin?
- Where do cars come from?
- Why is there fighting in Israel? (After hearing NPR while I drove him to daycare)
- Where do boo-boo’s go?
- Can I see the bones inside me? (After finding my medical text on anatomy)
- Are pirates bad guys? (I’m guessing more NPR…)
- Do crows eat garbage? (The Hudson valley has a lot of crows)
But just the other day after reading the children’s book [What Pet to Get](http://www.amazon.com/What-Pet-Get-Emma-Dodd/dp/0545035708), the questions got harder. In the story the little boy suggests a dinosaur as a pet, the mother says that they’re “extinct”. We explained what extinct means.
Nate asked “Dinosaurs are extinct?” Then he volunteered, “There’s nothing but bones left?”
“Is the mastodon extinct?” He loves the Cohoes Mastodon [exhibit at the New York State museum](http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/exhibits/longterm/mastodon/index.html).
“Extinct things are not alive anymore?”
“Yes… why do you ask?” Uh, oh. Maria laughed at me.
“Will Knuckles be extinct?” Knuckles is our cat.
“Not extinct, he’s going to be alive for a long time. Cats can live to be 20 years old. You’re three so it’s a long time.”
“Will Brandy be extinct?” Oh, boy. Brandy is his grandparents’ dog.
“She’s old, but not extinct,” I pause. “Extinct means there’s no more of that kind of animal.”
You could see the gears turning. The next questions are not going to be easy.
July 7th 2005 was more than a little important but I remember things in clipped scenes, very clearly, slightly unreal, not quite my life. I remember the waiting, how our baby was weeks late, Maria in labor, the doctor beaming confidence, the midwives, the electronic fetal monitor, the ob residents ducking in for a peek, Maria stunning them and the doc with a well-timed joke, surgery, recovery room, natural childbirth that didn’t work out as planned, healthy baby boy big and pink, a grub in blue and white swaddling, the worried-relieved faces of her parents, our friends, the nice nurse, the mean nurse, how the hospital wouldn’t let me sleep in the chair next to her, driving myself across Brooklyn, not knowing how I got home, leaving an incomprehensible outgoing message on our answering machine. If I had any thoughts that morning, I couldn’t remember them that night let alone three years later.
We went swimming after an early dinner and tonight, like every night, we read stories on the chair and a half then went upstairs to get ready for bed. Like every Sunday, I gave Nate a bath. I dressed him for bed, closed the shades, pulled up the covers, turned on the fan, recited a litany of stay in bed and don’t get up too early and we love you that takes the form of a call and response. Settled him back to bed and repeated the exchange when he woke to use the potty. There’s a daily routine made up of little routines. Tomorrow he will be three years old. When he’s six I probably won’t remember what I was thinking about tonight. The routines will be different. The mental scrapbook full of what he said and did, that like every parent I say I should write down, or video, so that I won’t forget but don’t, dog-eared and faded next to a stack of crisp postcard memories from a very long day in summer 2005.
Happy third birthday Nathan.
Happy New Year!
It’s a bit different already. For one, it started three hours fifty minutes after some student renters down the block woke us by ringing in the day with hollering in the street and shooting off bottle-rockets when Nate woke up, jiggled open his door and came upstairs to tell us he was awake by climbing into our bed. Maria finally got him to settle down at five and then he woke at seven to really start the day. I let her sleep and took a nap when he did. For another, I had been up for almost six hours, vacuumed the rugs, dragged the xmas tree to the curb, shovelled the walks, tried to build a snowman with Nate and was watching him play in the snow when a couple of twenty-something guys walked by looking very lost and I overhead one of them say to the other, “Yeaaah! And that’s when you came out in your underwear!” It’s different.
My son already renamed the cat, now he’s renamed his paternal grandfather. We’ve been using the titles “Gramps” and “Nanna” that my folks chose for themselves and Nate went along, but while driving from the airport to their house he decided that “Gramps” is better called “Nups”. He has no problem saying “Gramps” or making any of the sounds so the reason is all his own. He won’t explain and he pays no attention when I correct him. Dad thinks it’s funny so “Nups” it is.
Nathan has given the cat a new name: “Knuckles”.
Why? I don’t know. He says, “Knuckles! Cat!” and giggles. Then he tries to give it a big hug around its rump, which it tolerates but doesn’t work out so well in practice. Why? I don’t know. The cat, back to his fighting weight after sixty days of on-demand dry food and a strenuous regimen of sleeping on chairs and lazing near sunny windows, is non-plussed.
We adopted a cat over the weekend from the local shelter, an affectionate neutered three-year-old tom named “Garfield”, owing to his orange tabby coloring and his previous owner’s lack of imagination. Owing to our lack of foresight, he found the cat door into the basement and spent his first twenty-four hours hiding between the joists. We planned to put his litter box down there but didn’t anticipate the cat seeing it as an escape hatch from his new digs. Last night we coaxed him into the cat carrier and brought him upstairs to his fleece bed, locking the cat door behind us. Today he’s spending most of his time getting acclimated by hiding under beds and behind chairs with forays out for exploration and some head-scratching, chest-rubbing purring with adults. He is tolerant of Nathan and Nathan is gentle but the boy is still a two-year-old and his jumping, running, yelling, loud playing with toys, what-not racket sends Garfield off to quieter rooms.