Playing with animals

May 10, 2013 

An animal class and a 2-and-a-half year old … what could possibly go wrong?

Well, when the parents are more skittish around the insects than their daughter, the potential is certainly there.

Addy’s first Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation adventure didn’t come without a few tense moments. Addy’s lack of attention aside, (read: she’s only 2) she did pretty well.

Of course, we’ve noticed, she’s fearless. She bangs her head on anything she can walk or crawl under. She leaps from the couch or the bed whenever possible.

And the dreaded, “Dada, watch … I jump off this” never fails to get my heart racing.

In time, maybe she will fear or despise spiders and rats. Right now, she’s somewhat interested, somewhat indifferent.

During our first class of Animal Wonders (featuring the completely fearless and frighteningly knowledgeable “Animal Dan”) Addy was introduced to an array of things I could just as soon live without – tarantulas and the like.

In a test case of whether or not kids naturally fear things or they are taught to fear, Addy’s mom and I slowly inched our chairs back from the table with each new insect that was introduced to the class.

Addy would follow us, for a while. Then go back to the table. Then get distracted by something on the floor. Then look at the bugs again.

At one point, a grasshopper made its way out of a box and promptly leapt across the table. Before I knew what was going on, this thing was on my head. I instinctively brushed it off and on to the floor, fearing for a split second that I had just killed the thing in front of these kids.

It survived. Thank God. I didn’t want to be a part of an accidental insect slaying, at least not on the first night of the class.

The next few weeks were increasingly interesting with Addy. Her attention span waned – even as we all learned about blue-tongued skinks during reptile week.

The mammal class was nearly newsworthy, too, as the chinchilla was able to break the circle of kids sitting Indian-style and darted into the room. A wrong move and that soft, cuddly thing could have had his final show.

Fortunately, he was scooped up to safety.

Each week, I kept thinking perhaps Addy was too young for the classes and wondered just what she was getting out of them. Of course, then I remember the photos we now have and, even for brief moments, her attention focused on something that was new to her world.

Even through the grasshopper incident and my largely hands-off approach, the class was well worthwhile.

Unfortunately, we missed the bird week of the course due to a short-lived bout of pink eye.

And in retrospect, that may have been for the better. I was starting to envision Addy opening the classroom door during another potty break and letting the birds out inside Legacy Park.

Now that would have been newsworthy.

John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail

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