Thursday, March 25, 2010

Autumn has a Silent N

My precious four-year-old grandson William is finally into dinosaurs. I'd been tempting him with lots of dinosaur figures and facts, but until recently, he has preferred books, gardening and play dough. In January, I took him to the Texas Memorial Museum the day before his birthday, thinking this might help him kick off his dinosaur phase. We looked at dinosaur exhibits, bones and pictures of the great prehistoric creatures. William was mildly interested, but what he liked best was the dark room where stuffed animals were illuminated. He also liked the fish room where he could sit on a boat. His eyes lit up when we reached the third floor, filled with computers. I decided right away that William's in depth research into DNA should wait until he had progressed through a few more basic phases, including dinosaurs. I gently led him downstairs after he'd had a chance to manipulate a little data in the Human Genome Project.

After exploring the stairs, restrooms, windows and the bottom two floors of the museum several times, we were ready for the gift shop. I told William he could pick out one thing for his birthday present. Predictably, he headed for the books and began to read one after another. Although I had promised myself that my only influence would be the cost of the item, I suggested other sections of the store so he could explore more options. That's when his eyes locked on a little plastic lion. William moved around the gift shop, looking at other treasures, but he always came back to the lion. What? Two hours in a dinosaur museum and this kid wants to leave with a lion? Through a process of elimination--and some manipulation by me--he finally chose a green plastic dinosaur. I heaved a sigh of relief, hoping that he and "Dino" would reach new heights of exploration together. On the way out of the museum, we once again looked at the tail bones of a dinosaur that reached across a wall and over a door frame. William pronounced that "very inturesting."

During this past month, William has fallen for dinosaurs big time, and he's embraced learning about them with the same energy and intensity he tackles learning everything else. His mother took him back to the Texas Memorial Museum with his little sister Caroline, and they are all talking and reading about dinosaurs throughout the day. Tory, the mother dinosaur, tells me that every morning, William now wakes up as a dinosaur egg, and when she comes in for a morning hug, her young son breaks through his dinosaur egg shell and emerges as a baby dinosaur.

During William's sweeopver last week, we talked lots about dinosaurs, of course. We ate supper by candlelight with three dinosaurs as the table centerpieces. He woke up Friday morning, however, as a kid. I'm thinking it was because I forgot to sit on him to get him to hatch. After breakfast and some piano playing, we got back to dinosaurs. I sat him on my lap and began a computer search of dinosaurs, hoping to print out some pictures of his favorite ones. "My favorite dinosaur is the one with wings, the Teranodon," he told me. All my searches for the Teranodon were unsuccessful, and I told him I couldn't find it. That's when William softly and emphatically announced, "But Nini, it begins with a silent P." My search success rate hit an all-time high, and I printed out lots of pictures of Pteranodons.

Five days later, William is still enthralled by dinosaurs. Today, however, he called to talk about the four seasons. After all this is the week of spring break. We confirmed that he'd come to my house on Friday, and then he wanted to know all the things we would do in the spring and then in the summer. We discussed camping, trips to Zilker Park, and of course our newly planted tomatoes.

As we were beginning to move on to fall activities, William interrupted himself to deliver some big news. "Nini," he said earnestly. "Don't forget that autumn has a silent N."

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