Monday, February 20, 2006

Lizard Boy

Boy has been a lizard on and off since Friday, and he's getting really good at it. Most of the time he's a Komodo Dragon ("even his poop is venemous"); occasionally he's a Gila Monster, sometimes a snake, or - tonight - an unspecified lizard. He'll resume human form and ways when we go out - this weekend there was a birthday party, and we spent this afternoon at a friend's house, and he was not recognizably cold-blooded at either - but on returning home, he's soon in his lizard costume, skittering or slithering about on the floor, creating a habitat for himself, or growling at the merely human members of his family. It scares his sister when Lizard/Boy growls at her or comes too close, and of course he loves that it scares her, and SW and I don't like that he loves that it scares her, so it's a lot of work sometimes, but... wow.

Boy is a classic case of ... something or other. It's nothing he's learned, or at least nothing he's been taught, or seen; but he's done this sort of thing from way back, it's the way he works. The day Girl was born, he spent hours pretending to be a newborn baby, crawling on the floor till he found out that newborn babies couldn't even crawl... then insisting that I pick him up, cradle him (otherwise his head would flop around on his neck), and let him suck on my little finger when he cried. "This is textbook," said the nurse.

To this day Boy will pretend to be a baby and instruct us in our roles in the game. ("Pretend you're surprised when the baby can walk across the floor..." or, "You say 'The baby can't talk,' and then you're surprised when you find out he really can talk...") Once, a few years ago, he was pretending to be a lion, and got so involved with being a lion that he nipped the girl who was playing with him. (Fortunately, he didn't follow through by rending her limb from limb, or crushing her skull with one blow of his mighty paw. Her parents should have warned her not to feed wild animals.)

I find it fascinating, as a case study in cognitive psychology: he pursues his interests by becoming the object of his curiosity; it's playacting but it's also science, because he's putting to work everything he knows about the animal's behavior, habitat, diet... in order to, I don't know, internalize a model of animal psychology? Call it an empathic approach to behavioral biology. Not that that's the point, because I don't think there is a "point" as such. Unless it's to avoid having to sit down for dinner.

But I'm a little bit afraid we might have to move to the Amazon someday (Siberia is too cold, thank you very much) so he can become a shaman.


At 11:38 AM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

I think you're milking this for more surprise/profundity than is really there. Isn't this just learning by emulation? i.e. the kind of thing we ought to expect given we know children instinctively emulate?


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