A is for Animals

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Lily loves animals.

The other day I picked her up from the sitter who told me she was on the tire swing with “friends.” She thought they were maybe babies. I told her they were more likely animals.

She’s having a cat-themed birthday party.

Her favorite neighbors are the dog next door, and the one at the end of the hallway.

Her dolls do not have names. All of her stuffed animals, however, have carefully-selected ones. The bunny she got for Easter is named Huffy. On St. Patrick’s Day she got a stuffed dog from a street vendor. She named him Ali Hello Kitty Barack Obama.

Her imaginary friends are animals with rich back-stories. A family of alligators. A pregnant pink rabbit.

Her two favorite places in the world are the Bronx Zoo and the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium.

Here’s why this is interesting to me as a mother. I am not particularly interested in animals. My husband is not particularly interested in animals. But to Lily, animals are at least as important as people.

We spent today at the aquarium, which has a touch tank. One of her favorite things to do is touch the sting rays. I had never done it before today. But it was a special Mommy/ Lily Day. So I summoned my courage. My sweet not-even-four-year-old held my hand in the water and helped me reach out. (She is a teacher. She gets that from me.) When I touched the sting ray I literally squealed. As she fell asleep this evening, she told me that when I was afraid of the sting ray, I looked ridiculous.

There is a lot of debate about nature vs nurture with adopted children. I have no idea whether her birth parents were into animals. I do know that birthmom loved to dance, and that Lily loves to dance. But she’s being raised by a performing arts teacher, so that could come from anywhere.

Lily’s love for animals- or teaching, or dance- may come from her nature or from the way she is being raised. But I know that my little girl is not me. She is her own person. And getting to know her each day is the most exciting journey I’ve ever been on.

I may not touch the sting rays again, though.

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