We’re likely, as adults, to ascribe our own, adult, sensibilities and understanding to young children as they work and play. It’s often an error. Peter and I went to the zoo last Monday morning. The first place he wanted to go was the orangutan exhibit. Not to see the orangutans. And actually, they are rarely out in their big, huge open space, when we visit. But what Peter likes most; what Peter loves most, is a little play area by the orangutans’ big outdoor area. There are some big gongs, a small orangutan sculpture, and a music-making thing, made up of nine metal pieces, each about a foot square, all grouped together to make a large square. Underneath each smaller square, some sort of bell or gong is suspended. When you step, or jump, or leap on a square, the bell sounds. Three or four kids can be on the thing at once, all jumping and stomping, stepping and leaping, making music. Peter really likes it best when he’s there all alone. But, Monday was a holiday and the place was pretty full of kids. So there was group jumping. However, most of the family groups were walking through the zoo on a schedule, and the adults were saying, “Come on, now, we need to go see the lions/elephants/meerkats/giraffes/etc.” Peter might then have a few moments of solo performance, and then another wave of kids would come.
When it was particularly crowded, Peter walked over to the orangutan sculpture, curled himself up in the orangutan’s arm, and said, “I’m the baby orangutan. She’s the mommy orangutan.” He stayed there for a little while, waiting for the big group to leave. When they did, he went back to make music, just as a mom pulling a little red cart came up and stopped, and helped her little boy out. He was probably three years old, or so. And he came to jump and make music. He and Peter jumped together for a while, and then Peter went back to being the baby orangutan. When the little boy came over, Peter said, “And he’s the daddy orangutan!”
While I was chatting with the mom, the boys began to run back and forth from the statue to the back of the play area, where there was a fence with little-boy-hand-sized openings. They were bringing leaves and berries to the orangutan and putting them in her outstretched right hand. They ran with gusto and great joy.
“Oh,” said the mom. “They are bringing her an offering of food, because orangutans like to eat leaves and berries.” “Hmmm,” I nodded.
After a few more minutes, she called to him and put him back in the cart, and they rolled on to see other animals. Peter made a few more musical bounces, and we went on, too; off to see the aquariums and the otters.
“That was fun, for you, wasn’t it?” I said. “Having a new friend to play with.”
“Yes!” he said. “We were going to Wal-Mart to get Benadryl for the mommy orangutan!” (an interesting pretend/real life confluence, as Peter has developed some sort of allergy resulting in very swollen eyes; and a trip to Wal-Mart for Benadryl)
Other zoo day fun:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
1 Corinthians 13:11 (New International Version)
This is a significant verse. Of course, it’s important that, as adults, we behave maturely. But we should remember that children are supposed to talk, think, and reason like children!!
So, in other child-centric zoo activities: There was quite a bit of rain overnight, and when we arrived at the orangutan area, Peter went to the sculpture and discovered that lots of water had pooled in the orangutan’s nostrils. “Look!” he said. “She has snot in her nose!” And, to every child who came to make music, he said, “Look! There’s snot in her nose.” (thinking and reasoning that other kids his age are as interested in drippy noses and nose cleaning and care as he is)
In other Peter-related business: