My 2-year-old has recently gotten into dinosaurs. This is primarily because I brought home a cheap plastic one that had been sitting on my desk at work – a parting gift from an ex-colleague who had decorated his desk with them.
I had totally forgotten that it was there until I knocked it over the other day and thought, hey, this is probably more appropriate for a toddler than a 35-year-old public sector worker. So I took it home.
“I brought you a friend!” I said brightly. “Its name is Triceratops.”
“Its name is Dinosaur,” she said.
“Ah, of course. Dinosaur.”
“Silly mummy. Mummy didn’t know.”
“What do you think Dinosaur eats?”
“What kind of dinosaur food? Does it eat…dinosaur Weetabix?”
“Does it eat…dinosaur yogurt?”
“Does it eat…dinosaur cookies?”
We took Dinosaur with us to Jurassic Kingdom, a temporary exhibit in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens featuring giant animatronic dinosaurs. I thought they might be a bit scary for her, but she was unfazed. The dinosaurs roared. She waved her little Triceratops at them. They bared their teeth. She helped feed them ‘dinosaur food’ – handfuls of nothing that we tossed in their direction.
At dinnertime that evening, the dinosaurs were a key topic of conversation.
“Dinosaur’s sleeping now,” she said.
“Oh, is he?”
“His eyes are closed. He’s not roaring anymore.”
“Because he’s asleep, right?”
“Dinosaurs go ROAR!”
“You’re right, they do.”
“ROAR! ROAR! Dinosaurs are noisy.”
“Yes, they can be very noisy.”
“There’s a hungry dinosaur and a sleeping dinosaur.”
“Oh, there’s a hungry dinosaur?”
“Dinosaur got all messy. He ate too much pasta. He needs a bath.”
She was referring to a display where two velociraptors were attacking a brontosaurus. The brontosaurus had big, gaping wounds, which we told her were tomato sauce. I have mixed feelings about sugar-coating the brutality of nature, but, you know, she’s two. She gets spilled sauce. Bloodthirsty predators? Not so much.
“Dinosaurs are nice friends. They like big hugs.”
I love the place that she’s in right now, where she sees giant reptiles with huge teeth and just wants to embrace them. Soon enough she’ll realise that big things with sharp teeth are unlikely to be friendly, but for now, dinosaurs are no different to her than our cat. A bit loud and ornery, perhaps, but ultimately, all they really want is a big, sticky toddler hug.