I stopped in my tracks. Did he just say what I thought he said? My ten-year-old who knows the political platforms of both presidential candidates; this kid who can name every player and their position on the Philadelphia Phillies; this kid who has a repertoire of Henny Youngman jokes memorized to entertain a crowd of adults at any given moment. Did he just ask why the fish was wet? He doesn’t know that fish are wet? How did I miss that one?
“Simon,” I explained, “the fish was wet because it lives in the water. It swims and breathes and eats and does everything in the water. Did I never tell you that?”
“I guess,” he said distantly.
I tried to chronicle the times we had discussed fish: years ago our family had watched the movie, “Nemo” with Simon sitting between my husband and I as we took turns describing the underwater action; we had told him that friends of ours have a man-made pond on their property which is stocked with fish; he knows that his uncle goes fishing on his boat each year, but I guess I never thought to explicitly tell him that fish live full-time, perpetually, and exclusively in water.
This made me worry. I thought that I had covered the fish thing–that fish facts were something he had under his belt. But if he didn’t realize that fish were wet, what else did I miss? What else did I not tell him? I thought that I had been thorough–almost too thorough–in trying to fill in the visual world for Simon. But in ten years, I could have missed a ga-zillion things that I had taken for granted. I started to panic a bit.
As we walked back to the central camp area, with Simon still occasionally smelling his hands, I talked about fish as best I could (kicking myself for not paying attention more during the marine section of biology class). I described their bodies–the gills that help them breathe underwater–and their scales and bones. Simon asked if they used their legs to swim like he did.
Legs? Yikes! I really missed the boat on this one, so to speak. I told him how fish don’t have legs or arms. “How do they swim, then?” Good question from a kid who hears me reminding him to “kick, kick, kick,” and “slap the water with your arms” while he himself is swimming.
“Their whole body wiggles and they use their fins to go left, right, up, and down,” I told him. “Pretend that you’re swimming with your arms by your side and your legs together. That’s how they swim.”
“That would be really weird,” he said. Then, as his mind began processing this new information, he asked a series of questions to gain more and more information. “Where did the fish come from?” “Did someone put them there or did they swim there from the ocean?” “Do they only swim in lakes?” “What’s the difference between lakes and oceans?” “Do fish sleep in the water?”
I answered each question as best I could and the ones that I couldn’t address I told Simon we’d research on Google. I was glad for our new discussion and felt relieved that I could shed some light onto a topic that I thought I had already covered.
As for all the other subjects that I thought I had already covered, I decided not to fret endlessly about what I may or may not have missed. I figured that with each “new,” Simon would ask me what he needed to know and we’d fill in the blanks when the moment presented itself. I’m grateful for summer camps like Camp Little Rock that give campers (and parents) experiences that they would normally not have, opportunity to take chances that they would normally not take, and important moments from which we can all learn.