Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oh, Ben: April 11, 2010

My Ben is just different, y'all. I've never met anyone like him. We have no idea what might happen next, but we're certain we'll never be bored.

Life with a Komodo dragon can be complicated

    There’s a Komodo dragon in my house. There’s also a leopard, a tiger, a big alligator and a mean snake. When I come home in the evening I never know what kind of aggressive creature will wrap itself around my ankle and hiss or growl or roar. 

    It’s maybe not the most relaxing way to end the workday, but it certainly keeps thing interesting.

This is a scary lizard tongue that can kill you. Or so I am told.
    I’m assuming it’s somewhere inside the range of normal for our son to spend much of his time inhabiting animal alter egos, and refusing to acknowledge that he is, in fact, a garden variety 5-year-old boy-type creature.

    “How was your day, Ben?” I’ll ask, as he latches onto my legs and bares his teeth.

    “I’m NOT BEN,” he roars (or growls or hisses). “I’m a mean snake” (or a Komodo dragon or a leopard or… well, you get the idea).

    Ben also has a truckload of stuffed animals, all of whom have distinct and separate names, personalities and evolving personal dramas. There is a lot of conversing back and forth among them, and I sometimes run into the living room or out onto the deck after hearing Ben shrieking ‘Mama mama help!’ only to find that he is voicing a character in one of his elaborate plays.

Stuffed animals have many uses.
    “Are you OK?” I ask, dashing to my son, wide-eyed, heart thumping.

    He looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind. “Yes,” he says coolly. “Chuppy Puppy was falling off a tall bridge, but he’s all right now.”

    This whole thing is fascinating to me, in part because it’s such a total departure from what we experienced with our older son, who is about to turn 10. That kid was so relentlessly grounded in reality that we could not convince him to dress up for Halloween for first 5 years of his life.

    “What do you want to be for Halloween?” I’d ask every year, hopeful that he’d finally understand the potential fun of pretending to be someone else for a night.

    He’d look up from his equation notebook and narrow his eyes at me, bewildered and slightly suspicious. “I’m Jack,” he’d say firmly. “I’ll be Jack.”

    The Halloween he was 6 – the same year his brother appeared – Jack finally got it and put on a Power Ranger costume. I can’t help but think the arrival of another kid helped loosen up Jack’s outlook some.

    And the arrival of this kid, in particular, has left all of us with a high tolerance for long days of having to remember not to call him Ben. Because he is a scary Komodo dragon that can kill a buffalo and eat it, and if you call him Ben he will wrap himself around your ankles and hiss at you.

    Maybe when Halloween rolls around he’ll consider dressing up as some kind of human creature. You know, just for a change of pace for that one night.
Ben reassures this goat the he will not kill it and eat it because he is not
being a mean Komodo dragon right now. He is being a nice puppy.
The goat is clearly relieved. 

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