Monday, March 07, 2011
The pipsqueak has decided that cows are too cute to eat. I think he doesn't realize that he continues to eat them whenever he has some steak. When I asked him which animals would NOT be too cute to eat, he thought for a bit and then suggested sharks. He thinks he has logic on his side. He told me yesterday that we don't eat cows, and I replied that indeed we did, though he didn't have to if he didn't want to. He insisted that we don't eat them, explaining that if we did, we wouldn't have any milk, and we DO have milk -- ergo, we must not be eating cows. I told him that we eat SOME cows and use other cows for milk. He said no, we don't. So to make it clearer, I told him that we could, for example, keep girl cows for milk and eat boy cows. (Yes, I know "boy cows" is an oxymoron, but I was trying to keep it simple!) He said, "No, we couldn't do that." "Why not?" "Because the mama cows wouldn't let us eat the boy cows. The mamas would protect the boy cows." I felt like he had outwitted me. He is extremely logical for a 3-year old, and it really surprises me. The squeaker was not like that. The squeaker is a sponge for information. I can remember that at age 3, he had several different collections of felt animals -- little squares or ovals of felt, with an animal printed in ink on the fabric. He had a rainforest set, an arctic set, and so on. He loved these animals dearly, and he could identify all of them, even though many of the animals were exotic and very unusual. He liked knowing what they all were, and he liked the orderliness of having a category to which each animal belonged. He would carefully set them out on the floor, arranging them on a huge piece of felt that served as the background, and then smoothing them out. The squeaker was also interested in categories in general. Which animals were mammals? Which were from Africa and which were from Australia? Which were herbivores and which were carnivores? He liked all the categorical associations he could make from a single animal. The pipsqueak has no such desire for information. He doesn't really care about knowing stuff, and in fact he knows only a fraction of the animals his brother knew at this age. He couldn't care less about categories. He just doesn't think that way. But he has an uncanny knack for realizing when the logic offered by a grown-up just doesn't quite add up. He pays enormous attention to language; when we listened to Molly Malone in the car yesterday, he wanted to know what mussels are. He's always asking questions about what words or song lyrics mean, and he notices when a story, song, or explanation has some inconsistency in it. The squeaker has always amazed me with his ability to connect disparate ideas and to see the interconnectedness of things. He notices, for example, when characters in different books or movies have similar motivations, or are meant to represent the same metaphorical idea. The pipsqueak doesn't do that at all -- but he may draw different principles out of different experiences, and then ask questions about the lack of consistency. He notices when stories stand for different ideas, or an explanation seems internally inconsistent. It's surprising to me that my boys have such completely different intellectual approaches to the world.