Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Learning about Turtles

  I had not planned on searching YouTube for educational videos about turtles. But here I am, looking for something to share with Charlie. I'm spending more time at home now; with graduation and all, I have a few months of down time. So, I set up a summer reading list (I've already finished The Great Gatsby and am half-way through The Road), have some shows to catch up on, and spend more time with Charlie.
  Today, Hilary gave me a list of errands, and asked if I could take the boy. A trip to Petco for Sammy's food was planned. As Charlie and I entered the store, I decided to send Charlie on a tour. I even tweeted the subject (quick tangent: Is it really "winning" if I am being cheap? It seems more like a parenting fail, but I'll leave that thread for comments). We started in the aquatic section, and Charlie loved it! He twisted in the buggy wanting to see all the things. Yet, it was at the turtles that we had a "moment." There were seven or eight turtles in the tank. I tapped on the glass (sorry Petco employees!), and said, "Look at the turtles, Charlie!"
  He looked at them, and then turned to me. He was smiling big and showing his two teeth. He looked me in the eye, and cooed loudly before returning to the turtle tank. I'm not sure what happened, but I felt a strong desire to tell him more about these animals. I wanted to add knowledge to his wonder. But I couldn't do more than read the card about caring for them.
  Yesterday, I graduated from UTSA with a MA in English. I will be starting a PhD program at Texas Tech this August. I can say with some degree of humble hesitation that I am smart. However, my "smarts" have become more specified as I continue my education. I feel comfortable talking about literature in general, and can in full confidence discuss American literature. I have found an academic niche, and hopefully can translate this into a career.
  Yet when it comes to turtles, I'm at a lost. I started to think about the other things Charlie might ask. When he comes to me with questions about naturalism in The Call of the Wild, I've got his back, but what about the quadratic formula? Or chemical conversions? Or Photoshop? The list goes on and on and becomes more intimidating.
  Which brings me back to this afternoon of watching videos like this one:

I recognize my ignorance in many subjects, but there are a few ways to attain more knowledge. Returning home, Hilary and I put Charlie down for a nap. I then spent time looking up turtles on Wikipedia. I learned that they divide into two groups based on how a turtle retracts its head. I learned a shell consists of the carapace and plastron, and its outer layer is actually skin. Turtles are reptiles: I thought they were amphibians. Now, some may ask why this is important? Perhaps in the long run  it isn't, but when Charlie got up from his nap, we watched the above embedded video together. I told him what I learned about shells and the turtle's jawline. Charlie is not going to remember these facts; for that matter, I will probably forget them within the upcoming days.
  Turtles do stand in for a new way of thinking about my parenting role. In terms of education, I am pursuing another degree in a very specific region of American literature. Yet, as parent, I can strive to help my son and possibly future children learn. This means I will have to relearn a few things. It means spending time looking up videos and encyclopedia articles, but I feel that is time well spent.