Guess what happened when grandma and grandpa took us to the zoo?
Meet Maxton. He was four years old when we took him to the zoo. Maxton is among the most emotionally sensitive and loving children I know. For example, he easily falls in love with the vulnerable foster brothers and sisters that come and go within his family. He embraces them with joy, quickly becomes a care giver, crys when they depart, and within just hours or days opens his heart again.
A couple of summers ago we took Maxton and his sister Makenna to the Columbus zoom. Dad was at work. Mom was in South Africa on a mission trip. Our mission was to give our two grands undivided attention and affection in this time of missing mommy. We were doing so well! Until we came to Africa. Makenna saw the map at the entrance to the dark continent. Pointing to South Africa she exploded, “That’s where mommy is.” Maxton began to lose it. Tears began forming. Kathy saved the day by announcing, “We will take a picture of you by the map of Africa and send it to mommy. Right now!” Actually, we sent a video with the message that we missed mommy, were still having fun, and hoped mommy had already found new friends in South Africa to serve and to love. I wish you could have seen our little movie. Makenna was so funny! Maxton began laughing at her video antics.
We were back on mission. After a camel ride, a rest stop with lots of snacks restored our energy. On to Asia. Our grands love the snakes in Asia. They have been taught by their cousin Alison, who keeps snakes as pets, to celebrate these too often maligned creatures. There we were, being held in the gaze of a king cobra. Suddenly, I broke away from this stare when I realized that Makenna and Maxton were…gone! But, I should have known. They don’t do a lot of “screen time” in their family so an animal video had attracted them like moths to light. The film soon ended, but not their attention. My suggestion that we move on was ignored, as if I had not spoken a word. Maxton and Makenna were intent on watching the video, again. “Can’t beat ‘em? Join ‘em!” Soon enough, all of us were listening and watching with rapt attention as the narrator painted a stark picture of humanity’s cruelty towards animals. Sickening! I felt sick. I could only imagine what Makenna and Maxton were feeling. Do I need to protect them? Drag them away? Before I could figure things out, the production ended. Maxton bolted from his seat and began passionately, in detail, informing us of what cruel men do to tigers, elephants and other creatures great and small.
“Maxton,” I responded with reverence and resolve, “When we get back to the car, we will begin to talk about what we can do to protect the animals.” That is exactly the conversation we had all the way home; and again, later in the evening. A couple of weeks later, with mom safely back from South Africa and the family gathered to celebrate two birthdays, Maxton promised God, as he led the family in prayer before dinner, “When I grow up, I will be a scientist and save the animals.”
How much truth can sensitive children, handle? Sometimes, more than the adults around them.