This has come around WAY too soon for me. It’s May first AGAIN. Another year has passed, and it’s time for me to remember that day that I lay prostrate in a hospital bed, doped up on Morphine, and listened to a high-risk OB/GYN explain with remarkable calmness that 33 weeks or not, this baby was coming today.
Ben-Magoo, I simply refuse to believe that you are now SEVEN. YEARS. OLD. It simply isn’t possible. I forbid it. You must stay my baby forever. I know, I know…you SAY that you’ll always be my teeny baby, and you’ll ALWAYS want mommy cuddles, and you’ll ALWAYS be my same silly Ben-Magoo, but SEVEN? You’re practically a teenager. I mean, just look at your hair! Teenager hair, that is.
And listen to you talk – teenager talk, that…no, scratch that. You talk like a grown-up with a post-graduate degree. Ben-Magoo, you asked me some questions this morning, and I think I did a pretty good job of answering them, so I’m going to write down what I can remember here to make sure you can re-read it any time you want to.
We started out talking about your birthday presents – You got a few presents this morning that I picked up yesterday at the Royal Botanical Gardens – some pretty cool bug books, one from the grown-up section, because most of the kids books were just way too, as Molly put it, “kiddy” for you. You were a little disappointed that you didn’t get any ocean books, but I explained that right now you seem really focused on your Bug Clinic.
Just in case you’re reading this years from now and can’t remember, let me remind you about your Bug Clinic. Last year at daycamp, you and your friends noticed that there were a lot of caterpillars around and you wanted to do something for them, so you created a bug hospital at the base of a tree. You carefully brought any injured caterpillars you found there, and you collected a stockpile of carefully peeled maple seeds for caterpillar food.
I figured the end of the summer would mean the end of the Bug Clinic, but it turned out that friend from daycamp was in your class at your new school and you revived the Bug Clinic at school in the fall. You now have an army of “doctors” on your roster and you run a pretty tight ship, assigning them jobs, scheduling shifts, and of course protecting the clinic from the other team, the Bug Clinic Destroyers. You have quite a lot on your to-do list – literally – but you’re fully committed to it. In fact, when I said that you sure had a lot to do, you explained patiently, “I know, mommy. But that’s what you have to when you’re the boss.”
What’s even cooler, Magoo, and I don’t think you realize that you do this, is how huge your heart is. You don’t just accept everyone who comes along – you find ways to bring people together.
When some of your friends were more interested in playing Minecraft than Bug Clinic, you invited them to make a Minecraft tower on the top floor. When we had that incident a couple of weeks ago where another student made a poor choice and deliberately threw away the special piece of coral you brought to school, and later offered to work at your Bug Clinic to make up for it, you not only accepted her offer, you named her the “First Prize Winner” at your latest Bug Clinic Award Ceremony.
I mean, there’s forgiveness, and then there’s what you did. You have so much goodness in you that you respond to a deliberate injury by simply loving MORE. I think there’s a lesson in there for all of us.
You’ve been telling me that the Bug Clinic is a secret, but this morning you changed your mind and said it was okay for me to talk about it, and I’m really glad because I want to share it with the world. If more six…no, SEVEN year-olds were as dedicated as you are to caring for the very tiniest of creatures on this earth, how amazing would your generation become?
Getting back to the bit about the birthday presents – you loved your bug books, but you did mention in the car, “I wish I had a whole LIBRARY of ocean books!” And then you paused thoughtfully for a minute, and then you asked me, “Mommy? Why am I so different from other kids? Why am I into things like biology and stuff, and not just superheros and toys?”
Magoo, every once in a while you and me have these really profound talks, and this was one of them.
I said that there are a lot of reasons. There’s the ordinary reasons: We tried to expose you to lots of different playthings and experiences, not just superhero toys and sports. Honestly, you never had much interest in any of the sports we tried (“Except skiing! I really like skiing!” you point out), so we weren’t going to force it, as long as you’re active and healthy. And whatever toys you played with, you created your own worlds with them instead of being stuck “in the box” playing with them exactly the way they were intended. Just think about Brio Peak – Your track-building adventures rose (again, literally) to new heights, and led to your first published book!
Likewise, you don’t watch the typical TV shows for your age and gender, and I’m actually pretty happy about that. We’ve talked about this before, but with your innate kindness, and your tendency to be a bit anxious, you don’t like shows or movies with shooting and meanness, even if they do have happy endings. You just don’t enjoy watching them, and that’s okay. You get a little frustrated with your friends sometimes when they tell you the shows you like to watch are babyish, but you never fail to remind them “That’s a STEREOTYPE.” I do get a little sad because I know you censor yourself and don’t talk about those shows at school so you don’t get teased, but that of course is not a problem with you but with the world, and it’s not your job to fix it!
And I think daddy and I are doing an okay job at this parenting gig, because we try pretty hard to encourage you and Molly when you find something that you are interested in, like when you started to be interested in ocean creatures…
You interrupted me here to say, “It was when we were watching the life cycle DVD about the dolphin and the shark and you got the Eugenie Clark book and read it to me! THAT’S when I started loving ocean creatures!” and I’m pretty sure you just wrote the first sentence in your autobiography.
Well, that got me thinking and talking about the not-so-ordinary reasons. Eugenie Clark started being interested in natural science and ichthyology when she was very young, just like you, and I think you’ll find that the same is true of many scientists and leaders in their fields. People who have a passion for something often came to that passion very early in life, and many of them were lucky enough to be encouraged in that passion from early on. So you might be different from the other kids because God has a plan for you to do something really special – like to become a marine biologist or entomologist – or even something else.
One of the things that is really, really cool about you, Magoo, is that you don’t just get excited about things yourself – you have an incredible gift for getting other people excited too. Just look at your Bug Clinic – even though most of your friends are more interested in the usual stuff, you have somehow managed to get them totally excited about the Bug Clinic. When you started drawing ocean creatures, all of your friends did the same thing and for weeks you came home with your backpack stuffed with drawings of sea life – “To Ben, From _____.” Maybe you’re going to wind up using that gift to make a difference by getting people excited about learning or about conservation.
That, of course, led to a conversation about conservation (say that 5 times fast!) and a decision to write a letter to your principal outlining ideas for improving your school’s Enviro Club (“All we ever do is collect the recycling bags from the classrooms and dump them in the bins!”). Oh, and you remembered that you’d better get started with your letter-writing campaign to Marineland. And I promised to tell you about Craig Kielberger later. I guess Free The Children will be next on our reading list.
As we walked from the parking lot into your school, Magoo, you pointed at yourself, grinned at me, and said, “This kid is more like a grown-up than a kid,” and then ran inside to show off your birthday cupcakes.
I’ll have to meet you halfway on that, my baby Ben Magoo.