I recently spent a night in LA with one of my closest friends, who has an adorable and highly intelligent 4-year-old. I've been around this kid since he was an infant, and he's always been just as verbal as he is inquisitive, so it's no surprise that his first phrase was, "What's that?"
I joined them on a grocery store run, and as we walked down aisles of cereal and snacks, I asked what he wants to be when he grows up. She smiled and whispered, “He’s going to say he wants to be a crocodile.” “Yeah,” he confirmed. “The kind that eats bad guys.” We had a good laugh, and I told him I’d show him a few photos of crocodiles when we got back from Trader Joe's.
After we put away groceries, he gently reminded me I had a crocodile photo to show him, and I took the opportunity to explain the difference between crocs and alligators, and asked if he’d like to see more animals. “YEAH!” Silly question. The last time he visited we looked at animal art, and he was able to identify bison, elk, deer, bears and a wolf, which I thought was pretty impressive for a (then) 3-year-old. Of course, grandpa hunts and lives in Montana, so he’s pretty well versed with North American wildlife. But when I dug into my Africa photos, he instantly IDed rhinos, zebras, giraffes and lions, and quickly learned what a leopard was. I showed him a bat eared fox and he giggled, and I asked if he wanted to see more. “YEAH!”
I went to a folder from Panama and Costa Rica, and pulled up photos of iguanas, monkeys and a few birds. Iguanas were new for him, and when I flipped past a shot of a caiman, I noted that they were like nicer and smaller crocodile cousins. I don’t know how much information his young brain can retain, but I do hope that some years from now he remembers snippets of this. When I was four, that’s when I first started consciously logging information: internal thoughts, remembering designs on other state's license plates and taking mental photos of people and places. I imagine his busy and curious mind works a lot like mine.
While scrolling through more photos, I went past this one. “What’s that?!” I told him it was a storm over the ocean, and that the gray streaks were rain. “That’s rain?” His face was incredulous, and he couldn’t stop staring at the photo. “That’s what rain looks like from far away, on a boat,” I added. His mind was blown, and so was mine. I am 99.9% sure I’m not going to have kids. But man, if I did, I’d want them to be just like this little dude.