Snakes! (Or How to Indulge a Child’s Interests)

On our recent trip to Baltimore, we took a road trip to the National Zoo. It was well worth fighting Washington, D.C. traffic for a journey that is paying dividends for my children more than two months later.

We spent hours at the zoo, investigating every exhibit and paying special attention to the panda bears, tigers, monkeys and zebras. But it was a snake that has transformed our lives.

Before we left, we let the kids pick out a toy from the gift shop. Our 4-year-old chose a long, bright green, rubbery snake. It has hardly left his side since, which proves that it’s good we live in Florida because the snake can enjoy the pool just as much as our oldest. Since that snake slithered into our lives, our son’s interest in snakes in particular and reptiles in general has skyrocketed.

DSC_0387 (A boy’s best friend.)

“Daddy, did you know that snakes don’t have eyes?” he’ll ask me six times a day. “Mommy, I wish I was a snake,” he opines. “Daddy, sea snakes don’t bite unless you put your finger in their mouths,” he’ll tell me. And on and on it goes. Which is absolutely awesome.

We’ve watched snake videos on YouTube and our extended family has gotten involved, too. One of the many grandmothers sent him a children’s book on snakes. One of the many aunts sent a Smithsonian Book called, “Natural History: The Ultimate Visual Guide to Everything on Earth.” The kid is fascinated. We now know, for instance, that snakes don’t have eyelids, just a protective coating that protects their eyes.

DSC_0386 (Literally, everything you ever wanted to know.)

His passion is charming and if you ever see him in the grocery store, mall, library or ballpark be prepared to learn all about rattlesnakes, cobras and vipers. Once he sinks his verbal fangs into you, your ability to get away will be severely constricted. (See what I did there?)

What makes this even more rewarding is that neither my wife nor I ever had an ounce of interest in snakes, except trying to avoid them. Now we find ourselves with an anaconda aficionado sleeping just a few feet away. (Hopefully, we’ll never have a real anaconda sleeping a few feet away.) This is the part of parenting that I love the most — watching our kids discover something new and seeing their minds expand before our eyes with enough questions and thoughts to fill an encyclopedia.

Where will this fascination with snakes lead? Will he want to study reptiles in school? Beg us to buy him a snake or an iguana? (I think my wife would move out first.) Will his interest lead him into veterinary medicine? Or will this be but one of a multitude of interests that grabs him for a time?

Our goal is to keep his mind moving. We’ll watch videos and make up stories about his snake. We’ll read him books about the lives of reptiles. We’ll encourage him to think and question and wonder and imagine for as long as he wants. Or until something else slithers into his brain.

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The Beginning
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