Living on the Wild Side

“Sammy, do you love your little brother?” I asked Sammy after reading a touchy-feely book about a big brother welcoming his little sister into the family.
“Not really,” Sammy answered after a few moments’ thought.

“Would you have been happier with a sister?” I asked, curious.

“No,” he mused. “That would be a She,” he concluded, as though that were explanation enough.

“And you don’t like She’s?” I prodded.

“No.” A three-year-old’s favourite word.

“But you just played with some girls this morning. Wasn’t that fun?”

“No. They’re only fun at their house.”

“You mean when you play with them at their house, or when they play with other girls at their house?” I asked.

“When they play at their house with other girls,” Sammy answered without any hesitation.

When I consider the daughters of my friends, I have to wonder whether our boys’ disinterest in the gentler sex is actually to their benefit. I have an inkling that the mothers of those sweet little princesses would have their reservations about our sons’ most recent imaginative play: pretending to be top carnivores, or worse, scavengers.

Their fascination with the intricacies of the food chain stems from their love of non-fiction books (Teddy just received the “Student of the Month” award for his independent animal research at school) and Sammy’s favourite animal show, “Zaboomafoo.” They are also enamoured with dinosaurs and their classification as herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores. (As it turns out, there are even “insectivores”. Who knew?)

A few weeks ago they were playing with play-dough. I had recently made a big batch of brightly-coloured blue play-dough to inspire our boys to sculpt whatever they could dream up: cinnamon buns, bunnies, eggs, stamps of flowers…the opportunities are endless with play-dough. As it turns out though, I obviously still think like a girl, because what my boys ended up using the big lump of dough for was to represent a big hunk of carrion (a dead animal, for those of you who don’t know) which was being eaten by a plastic hippo and a plastic fish (the two animals they have in their play-dough collection). At one point the fish was “stuck” in the heap of deceased animal flesh, calling out to the hippo to “come and save me! I’m stuck! Start eating right here!” Yum.

One of the most common questions from the boys for a while was, “is _____ meat?” (fill in the blank with an animal name.) Now they will make statements about animals being “meat”. They discuss which animal is meat for which other animal, and even wonder whether we humans are meat. I’m still not sure how to field that one. Grizzlies are of particular concern to them, and they often want to know how far away we live from the bears.

Sammy, who has a particular fascination with animals, role-plays animal personas all the time. When he is alone he is often a peace-loving species, high-lighting the animal’s qualities by describing it as an animal that “is quiet” or “is a good listener.” When Teddy gets home from school though, be prepared for some serious stalking of prey, growling, and pouncing. The two of them set to attacking toy horses or pillows, taking them down with their “sharp claws,” and chasing away the competing carnivore who would threaten to steal their kill. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to which boy secures the most kill and which one is chased away most often.

Some people may consider the boys’ pastime reflective of a morbid fascination with death. I disagree: Oliver and I feel like we’re watching a nature flick in which the young animals learn to hunt and fight at a young age by wrangling with their fellow yearlings. Our gentler Sammy is receiving an education in being more assertive in the face of a very dominant alpha male, which will no doubt stand him in good stead as he begins kindergarten next year. We have seen that boys tend to gravitate towards games that involve hunting or killing, and I confess to preferring this game over the imaginary killing of people using light-sabers or worse. If nothing else, it has certainly reinforced the timeless truth once again that kids will act out what they see, read, and hear!

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Alison said,

    This one made me laugh… 🙂

  2. 3

    Stefanie said,

    I laughed-out-loud on this too!
    I have to agree that my girls/princesses would probably not completely appreciate carnivore animal play to it’s fullest.
    ….unless maybe there were some princess dresses and tiaras incorporated in it; and in the end the animals all woke up again and everyone finished off with a lovely tea party!! 😉


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