In praise of naked mole rats
Adam, Lucy and I were sitting around the family room watching a relatively harmless TV show when Lucy said something utterly shocking — something that came out of nowhere.
“Have baby,” she said. “Have baby sister.”
I looked at Adam and scolded him: “Are you putting those thoughts in her head?”
“Don’t look at me,” he said, rubbing his tired eyes. “One is plenty right now.”
I decided to test Lucy, to see if she knew what she was saying, or whether she was just repeating a thought some scheming relative had planted in her head.
“Lucy,” I said. “Do you want a baby brother or a baby sister?”
“Sister,” she said. “Girl.”
“What if you had a baby brother?” I asked.
“Sister. Have baby sister.”
If someone has been programming Lucy to pressure Adam and me into having another child, they’re doing a pretty good job. She sticks to her guns, and gives off the impression she understands what she’s saying.
“Lucy,” I asked. “What's a sister?”
This stumped her. And that’s OK. You need to have a sister to understand how you could still love someone who’d sneak your favorite shirt in high school, and then be stupid enough to take her learner’s permit picture in it, giving you hard proof she’d raided your closet.
Perhaps Lucy has seen enough of my sisters to know that she’d like one, too. Perhaps she’s seen enough of my brothers to know how the smell never does leave a room that they’ve slept in.
All of that seems highly unlikely, though. Lucy is still two months away from her second birthday. There’s no way she could know what it would mean to have a brother or a sister. What was shocking, though, was that she even realizes a baby sister is even an option.
It’s not something Adam and I have been talking about with each other, let alone with Lucy in the room. What’s more, none of our baby-crazy relatives admit to brainwashing her.
And yet, Lucy keeps bringing the topic up. Our nanny, Laramie, recently took Lucy to the beach for some fun. Laramie reported that Lucy said “Want baby sister” while they were playing.
And so Laramie asked the question I’m far too chicken to ask.
“Lucy,” she said. “Where do babies come from?”
Lucy had a ready answer.
“The Science Center,” she said, referring to a kids’ museum downtown that she really loves to visit. Her favorite exhibit there features naked mole rats, which, when you think about it, is fairly close to how a human newborn looks.
But alas, babies do not come from the Science Center. I’ve gone to there many times myself, and it’s never once made me tired, barfy, fat or paranoid. And the only child I’ve come back with is the one I came with.
That said, I like the way Lucy’s mind works. There are lots of babies there, other people’s babies — not to mention the entire colony of unguarded naked mole rats.
Maybe someday, when I can conceive of a way of loving another child as much as I love Lucy, I will talk to Adam about embarking on science project of our own. It might not give Lucy the sister she’s demanding. But I can say from experience that brothers aren’t half bad, once you get past the smell of stinky feet.And even better, they’re much less likely to steal your clothes.