Posts Tagged ‘Children’

Abby and Gorilla

Abby watching a gorilla at a distance

Apart from the observation that some children appear to be animals, this post is a commentary on how well children and animals go together.

I had the chance over the past few days to witness this fact again for the millionth time, first when my wife and I took our granddaughter to the zoo on Tuesday, and then in watching children around animals at the state fair on Wednesday.  Of course, every day’s walk with my dog to a nearby park also reinforces the attraction of kids to animals and vice versa.

On Tuesday’s trip to the Louisville Zoo, my granddaughter was most anxious to see the giraffes.  We headed in that general direction and soon saw the giraffes as part of our 2.5 hours of strolling around all kinds of animals.  Fortunately, we caught her before she crawled under a barrier that would’ve allowed her right next to an indoor stall where a baby giraffe was feeding.  (Shhhhh… don’t tell her parents.)  There is a natural curiosity of children toward animals as well as a lack of fear, even when a healthy dose of fear (or at least respect from a distance) is in order.

This was my first trip to the zoo with Abby, and as animal lovers, we felt right at home.  It won’t be our last.

Kids watching ducks at the state fair

Kids watching ducks at the state fair

Then Wednesday at the state fair we witnessed many, many animals.  I couldn’t help but notice some of the small children who were members of the families who owned the farm animals and cared for them.  They were right at home pulling up a chair and sitting next to their animals, walking them, grooming them, showing them, leading them, talking to them, etc.  It was just as natural to those children as could be.

We also sat and watched a little bit of a horse show while at the fair, the first competition being with riders who were eight years old on their huge show horses.  On a return trip later in the day, I noticed a small petting zoo area I had missed earlier.  Petting zoos are child magnets as little hands reach out to touch whichever animals they are allowed to pet.

Last night while walking my dog at the park near our home, two young boys chased me down to ask if they could pet Callie.  The answer to that question will always be, “Sure!”  Callie knows no strangers and will befriend anyone interested in her.

Younger Abby riding Callie

Younger Abby riding Callie

It didn’t take experiences from this week, though, to teach me about kids and animals.  I grew up with pets nearly all my life.  My parents and grandparents owned farms with horses and cattle.  I’ve almost always had a dog or two as well as a variety of other pets.  Life just doesn’t feel right for me unless I have a canine companion nearby.

I think it’s important for children to have pets.  So many life lessons can be taught through such a relationship.  It is through having a pet that many children first learn to take care of another creature who depends on them for food and drink.  The companionship of a loving pet provides joy, satisfaction and unconditional love that is not always felt in human relationships.  Some of life’s toughest lessons such as dealing with grief are taught through the tears of losing a beloved pet.  Respect for all of God’s creation is best taught through actual interaction with that creation rather than as a philosophical concept we hope carries over should the opportunity arise.

My son, Jason, at age 3 covered with cicadas

My son, Jason, at age 3 in 1987 covered with cicadas

So parents, I encourage you to endure the inconvenience of having pets when the children don’t keep their promise of taking care of them as they said they would when you got the pet.  Allow them the chance to have some strange creatures in your home that you’d be quite content to never have inside your walls (like the tarantula I had in high school).  Accept the added expense of pet food, cages, supplies and vet bills as a childhood rite of passage even though you have other things you’d rather spend your money on.  Don’t freak out when kids come in the door with a shoe box or a jar saying, “Look what we caught!”

By allowing and encouraging your children to live life harmoniously with animals, you are teaching your children about some of the most fascinating and mysterious aspects of our world.  You are teaching them to respect life in all of its forms.  You are teaching them compassion that leads them to care for others who can’t always care for themselves.  You are teaching them that the world doesn’t revolve around them, but that we are part of an amazing planet made richer through frequent interaction with other species.

We need our children to grow up with a healthy respect and love for nature and all forms of life.  That is most likely to happen through actual participation with nature in all its fantastic variety of plant and animal life.

Parents, grandparents, and guardians, please make sure that the children in your life have the chance to grow up with and interact with animals along the way.  It has the possibility of making them better people and contributing to a better world.

imaginationThis morning I spent an hour with four young children – two boys who will be three years old in a few weeks and two girls who are each four years old.  I wish I had a video of the time because it was fascinating.  I haven’t been around that much imagination in a long while.

In the span of 60 minutes, here are some of the things that happened:

  • they surfed around the room on Styrofoam surfboards, occasionally being eaten by sharks and dying, but nothing that pixie dust couldn’t cure;
  • one boy gave both girls quite thoughtful haircuts – he’s a natural; 
  • they all danced as couples, lining up in what I thought might be a chorus line at any moment;
  • they ate various foods, one of them fixing me the yummy breakfast of a waffle, an Oreo cookie, peas, and a bagel (which I mistakenly identified as a donut until corrected);
  • they argued over who would be which Disney character, changing roles as needed;
  • they took a while to figure out who would play whom in the story of baby Jesus (I must’ve missed the part about the mermaid in the Bible);
  • they took cover under the tables several times from sundry threats, occasionally dying, but nothing that pixie dust couldn’t cure;
  • they negotiated with the cleverness of a used car salesman;
  • they argued over which black baby doll would be Jesus in the manger, agreeing after a while that Jesus had a twin brother, so they could keep both;
  • they all put on skirts for various roles;
  • one seemed to be the most authoritative and eager to “suggest” what the others should do, with suggestions from others OK once they were her ideas;
  • there were a few moments of physical confrontation that needed intervention.

All in all, it was a very eventful hour.  I’m sure I’m forgetting most of what happened.

When I compare the imagination of each of these wonderful children today to that of most adults (including myself), I can’t help but wonder where we lose that capacity – or, if not the capacity, then the willingness to be imaginative.  Adults need much more of that.

Leap year lesson #350 is Hang on to imagination.

On the back wall of the Visitor’s Center at The Abbey of Gethsemani is a plaque with some wonderfully thought-provoking words written by G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy. During this beautiful springtime week in this quiet place of reflection, I was brought to tears by the thought expressed.

Chesterton wrote:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy, for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical “encore.”

Many of my unbelieving friends and acquaintances will scoff at such a notion. To those who choose not to believe in a Creator, I won’t try to argue and rationalize them into belief even though such arguments can be made. But for those who share my belief, I hope you see each fresh sign of spring now and in the weeks ahead as a great theatrical encore by the only One capable of that act.

Repetition is not boring when it is the repetition of beauty and meaning.

Leap year lesson #87 is There is beauty in a child’s “Do it again”