Bringing up children is actually a lot harder than it appears to people without children. One of the really good things about being a parent is that from day one the challenges of parenthood are delivered in bite-sized morsels. Some times I've been know to use the expression "my plate is full" when describing my responsibility and commitment to my children. The metaphorical plate should actually be described as "almost full". Magically, there is always room for more. I am trying to make a point here and it is this: If you knew what was ahead from the outset, all the little details, well you might just think twice! That would have a devastating effect on the human race. I believe the ability to see beyond the immediate, is removed the moment you give birth. An opaque veil descends. This bizarre behavioural reality has to be genetically encoded for the survival of the species.
Learning is a wonderful thing. Watching other people learn is absolutely fascinating. Which brings me onto the subject of my story.
I'm rather old fashioned when it comes to child rearing. I believe that children have to be taught how to learn and require a skill base that cannot be taken for granted. Two of the basic skills are focus and responsibility. To this end I devised a supervised plan to teach them together.
A couple of months ago we became the proud custodians of Rupert, our adored and precious rabbit. He was named after Rupert in the recent "Survivor" series. We wanted our Bunny Rupert to be a survivor, as Harvey, his predecessor, sadly had not survived. He died of heat stroke out of ignorance on our part. The grief for Harvey has passed but the guilt has not.
In order for Rupert to stay climatically comfortable he needs attention. The scenario is as follows. If he is on the grass at night the sprinklers will soak him. If he is on the steps close to the house in the morning in the selected location, he will over heat and potentially expire. The task for Andrew is to bring Rupert onto the steps at night and move him onto the grass in the morning.
Through these motions Andrew is honing the essential skills to assist him in his lifelong quest for knowledge. For several weeks the first thing he would do on rising would be to move the cage onto the grass to avoid the sun and the last thing he would do before bed would be to move it onto the steps to avoid the sprinklers. Then something quite unexpected happened.
Due to a careless act, we returned home one evening to find Rupert had escaped from his cage. The lock had not been secured and Rupert in our absence, had metamorphosed into Houdini, the great escapologist.
This taste of freedom was so sweet to Rupert, that after seconds of trying to catch him, it was apparent he was addicted to it. Our previously mellow hop-along fellow was uncatchable, using the usual method. However, we were experienced bunny custodians and had learnt a few tricks from Harvey. "Get the towel then!" "OK"
From the moment the capture device appeared, Rupert's extended garden romp was over. The words "Got him!" reverberated round the garden in the moonlight. Punch drunk and exhilarated with freedom, the little fellow collapsed trapped underneath. For a moment Andrew considered the towel. Hadn't it been effective!
I missed the actual moment of "the aha" I would have liked to have seen the visual representation of it. Where were the eyebrows positioned? Did the corners of the mouth give way to a smile or was it just a smirk. I missed it because I wasn't paying enough attention.
The next morning Andrew didn't rush out of bed to attend to his responsibility. I wondered why and glanced out of my bedroom window and onto the steps. The means of capture was now the provider of shade. Rupert was shrouded in a bright orange towel to protect him from the sun. Moving Rupert was not the number one wake-up priority anymore. Andrew was thinking laterally.
What struck me about this was the process." I know I can use it for this, what if I use it for that..." Isn't this how scientific discoveries come about. It really can be that random.
The story is not quite complete. Let us not forget the focus aspect. Why was Rupert moved? There is a difference, after all, between light and heat. Being in the shade doesn't necessarily mean a cooler temperature. When I said "a supervised teaching plan" I meant it.
"So Andrew, what's all this about and what have you learnt?" "Let's get a thermometer" I said. "Was it such a good idea after all?"
There is always something new to learn and a new way to learn it....