Being a lover of photography and the great outdoors, I very much look forward to finding the latest issue of National Geographic magazine in my mailbox every month. Perusing the contents of this well-known yellow-bordered publication inspires me and helps keep me connected to something bigger than myself and my brood of young’uns. However, it came as quite a shocker to me that my 2- and 3-year-old daughters dig the magazine as much, if not more, than I do.
Recently, Bear approached me and initiated this conversation:
Bear: Dad, can you read me (slurred jumble of nonsensical syllables) graphic?
Bear: (with a silly smile indicating her knowledge that she is totally botching a pronunciation) I wanna read (something resembling “mac ‘n’ cheese”) graphic.
Dad: (taken aback because Bear usually speaks quite clearly) What? What in the world are you saying?! Are you saying “Mac ‘n’ Cheese Graphic”?
Bear: Yeah! Mac ‘n’ Cheese Graphic!
Of course, I realized then that she was referring to National Geographic. It makes perfect sense that a 3-year-old would take the syllables “nash nal jee”, which mean absolutely nothing to her, and substitute “mac ‘n’ cheese”, a phrase that literally translates to “delicious dinner” in toddler-ese. It must be a bit confusing to her that there is not a single photo of mac ‘n’ cheese to be found anywhere within the magazine, but I suppose she keeps holding out hope that next month’s issue will address this little disconnect.
But yeah, Bear and Bean LOVE this magazine. The latest issue has been particularly spellbinding for them. Bean will come up to me and say “I wanna see spiders”. As I take the magazine and start flipping through to find the spider pages, Bean slowly starts to back away, all the while keeping her eyes trained on the pages. Because, you see, while she does have an insatiable curiosity about the spider photographs, she is also quite terrified of them. The spider is pretty creepy actually. Though we’re told that the creature is so small it could perch on our fingernail, the extreme close-up photos make it look as though it could devour Manhattan if it wanted to.
Then there are the big cats. This issue features lions, tigers, jaguars and the like. The kids love to look at the photos and say “That’s Pedro’s cousin!”, Pedro being our abnormally enormous house cat. “Pedro, come see your cousin!” they yell as they chase poor Pedro all over the house. Pedro hates this, and to be fair, I would not want someone waking me up from my nap by shoving photos of my distant relatives in my face. Not cool.
The big cats story does contain one particularly troubling photo. The picture shows a shirtless man laying down with his eyes wide open, and several other men standing above him and pouring water on his body. The caption says something like “villagers prepare this man’s body for cremation after a large tiger fell him with one swipe of its paw”. The inevitable conversation commences:
Bear: What are they doing to that guy?
Dad: (struggling) Who, that guy? Let’s see… they are… actually… giving that guy a bath, as it turns out.
Bear: Why does he need help taking a bath?
Dad: You know, let’s go ahead and see what’s on the next page…
I suppose we should just get them a subscription to the kids’ version of the magazine to avoid subject matter like this. Then again, is it ever too early to warn your children about the dangers of being felled by big cats?