Many, many years ago, when my two-year old son had just started devouring picture books and peg puzzles, one of his favourite books was a peg puzzle book about farm animals. He would constantly take the animal pegs out and put them back in, calling out their names – cow, pig, horse, duck and so on.
Soon after, and when my son was still in love with the book, we visited my husband’s parents. Seeing how much my son loved the farm book, my father-in-law decided to take him to a nearby farm to show him the cows there. All of us went along!
My son kept jabbering away on our drive to the farm. When he finally saw the cows, he froze. His eyes were like saucers. He backed away at jetspeed saying, “These cows are soooooo big…my peg cow is small.”
Completely overwhelmed, he came running to me and asked to be lifted. When I carried him, he buried his head in my shoulder, trying to make sense of what he had seen and what he had believed was a cow till that point!!!
Only at that time did we realize that he had not yet seen a cow in real life. It took a while for him to process and correlate what he had seen.
Cut to yesterday. I was on a video call with my sister, and the moment we started talking, my niece wanted to tell me a story from a picture book she was reading.
She narrated the story of The Lion and the Mouse. She narrated each line with special effect sounds and voice modulation, her eyes and hands expressing what she couldn’t articulate in words. And then she said, “You know, Pemma, “The lion was caught by a hunter.”
She wanted to convey that the lion was trapped in the hunter’s net. And in her mind, the picture of the hunter’s net she had seen in her book looked like a spider’s web.
She finished her story with a flourish, “The lion was caught in the spider’s web, Pemma. Then the mouse helped the lion escape, and they lived happily ever after.”
As I hung up, I thought about young kids, and their innocent and colourful imagination. And how at some point, reality takes over!!