We spent a couple of days in New York’s Finger Lake region, where my youngest sibling (half-sister) graduated from college on a chilly, drizzly day.
The sky broke open as we drove home and made a quick detour into Niagara Falls, where Declan would only walk through the surprisingly lovely state park so long as we agreed to take a book on human anatomy and a little boxed solar system puzzle along with us. We clung to the road until midnight on Sunday, when our little boy officially became three years old, or, as he’s been telling me for weeks now, “not a baby anymore.”
Not wanting to spend too much of his birthday in the car, we subjected ourselves to federal inspection in Cleveland, which gave us a pass into a place that turned out to be the closest thing to heaven that Declan has experienced. (Thanks to Wendy for the tip.)
Oh, Hayden Planetarium, dear Air and Space Museum… you have no idea what you may do to my son’s mind, and I’m determined to bring him to you as soon as I can.
Sadly, we had no idea that the center had its big open house that weekend – not that we’d have been able to go – but I am disappointed that we weren’t able to connect him with any scientists – an adult who might appreciate how engaged he was in the place, with its model Hubble telescope and Mars rover and the pictures of galaxies and nebulae that he recognizes, the planets that he knows by surface, size and position. We watched a movie about the International Space station, where, he reminded me today, an astronaut mixed orange and red juice in zero-gravity drops.
We’ve arrived at a new place where his need for attention has grown immensely, and his thirst for knowledge, which has been intense, is even stronger. I try to make his life more varied than space, but space seems to help master everything else. Although he can’t read yet, he now recognizes the words “universe” and “astronomy” (and “NASA” of course). He mastered mouse skills in about an hour once I showed him the History Channel’s interactive universe, which he likes to visit daily, telling me “I need to work on the computer.” I tried to get him to play with a Trapelo puzzle with me last night, and once he decided that the designs could be like the “cracks of Europa,” he was ready to try. We’re still having issues with potty training, but when I’ve suggested that his poop will better resemble Proxima Centauri or The Pleiades in a toilet than his diaper, he seems to consider this seriously. (I am not joking at all.)
When he got overwhelmed and overtired in social situations this weekend, looking at space and human anatomy books balanced him. Once we start one, he insists on reading it thoroughly. We were able to sit through a long, rainy graduation ceremony with little incident, provided we could whisper about the billions of cells we have in our bodies, how eardrums work and what heartstrings actually are. We gave him a working stethoscope and a lion puppet for his birthday, so he pretended to tend to his furry patient in his car seat, and later checked our heartbeats.
We spend so much time in the mysteries of the micro-finite and the infinite here. I’m increasingly afraid about how little I know, how quickly I may lose the ability to engage him and increasingly impatient with people who know so little about astronomy and anatomy themselves, that they don’t know that his interests are more than a cute parlor trick.
My objective this summer is to find someone who he can talk to that loves and knows about at least one of the things that he does.