Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Bunny and the Tiger

Does this Bankie make me look fat?

I was the room parent last Friday at Bub’s pre-school, which entails having a snack with the kids, talking bristle blocks and Honey Grahams. Somewhere in there was sing-song time, wherein the kids, when called upon, would name an animal to fill in the blank.

Bub picked a bunny.

Not a dinosaur or rhinoceros or grizzly bear. Not even a fully growed-up, speed-burning, garden-raiding rabbit. A bunny. Bunnies are soft, delicate. Bunnies get swallowed whole by owls in the shadowy moonlight. Bunnies are prey.

Quick snapshot of the class: Seven girls and two boys.

The other boy picked a tiger.

Well, la-dee-dah, Alpha Toddler. It made sense, in its own way. This other boy is much more physically imposing than Bub, more developed and better-coordinated. Taller, heavier, sturdier. He goes down the big slide. He hauls a backpack bigger than his own torso. Probably full of gold bullion and pride. When the class drew pumpkins, his was so good the other kids tried to carve it. And he let them.

Bub loves him. And who wouldn’t? He’s a nice kid. Good-looking, well-dressed, polite. But is that feeling mutual? I mean, Bub is clearly Robin to this pint-sized Batman. This was all established in less than two weeks, and that was that. The roles were set. Bub would now have to best him in a cage match to change that. And bunnies seek protection in cages, not confrontation.

It’s fine. No, really, Robin has pulled Batman’s doughnut out of the grease a few times. I mean, he has, right? The faithful sidekick. The Beta male. No shame in that. No siree.

It’s just that no parent wants their kid to be the hanger-on, the wingman, the Ed McMahon. The bunny. Instant survey--would you rather your kid be outgoing or reserved? A tiger or a bunny? That’s what I thought.

I have nicknamed Bub The Assessor. It’s not that he’s shy or introverted so much (though he is), it’s that he really likes to get a feel for any given situation before he decides how to proceed. He watches, plants all the data into his three year-old bean, which eventually sprouts a decision to act. Or not. Spontaneous, he ain’t.
But what’s wrong with that? He’s coming from one parent (me) who has a favorite quote that goes something like: It’s better to be quiet and be thought an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Only fools rush in. Et cetera.

And yet, I hear myself imploring him to go play with other kids on the playground. Interact, make friends, mingle. Practically shoving him into the bouncy castle, where, yes, it’s likely he will sustain a minor abrasion, but it’s fucking-A worth it. It’s mostly that we just don’t want him to be afraid. We’re trying to instill self-confidence. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.

But deep down, we know that the tiger path leads to riper fruits in the long run. You play your cards right, they may just name a fountain after you. You will always play point guard and go to the after-parties. People will remember your name. People will listen when you roar.

The bunnies, meanwhile, sort of squeak and nibble in the safe confines of their cages. They are gentle and fragile and easily cajoled. Their poop is consistently pellet-y and they smell of wood chips. They look up at tigers with a mix of awe, fear and digust.

Takes one to know one. I tip-toed my way through the high school jungle once upon a time, so careful not to rustle any leaves there in the shadows of the mighty felines. I camouflaged my scent over and over with the mud of anonymity, rubbed that shit in deep, yet still hoped they’d somehow see me. If only they stopped to bat me aside with a mighty paw, at least they would have acknowledged me.

We want what we can’t have, of course. We want our kids to learn from mistakes that we’re not letting them make. We want them to have everything we didn’t. Or do we? The irony, I’ve realized, is that I don’t want Bub to be a tiger. Tigers hunt and maul and snarl and gnash. That’s not the kind of son I want to raise. I’m glad Bub picked a bunny. In a very John Hughes way, I’ll always side with the bunnies.


  1. Absolutely beautiful article. I was brought up with the attitude of better to be stepped on rather than the one stepping on others. It's hard to have that attitude in life. Yup I was ashamed and a bit self loathing to be the one not invited to the after parties

  2. Bunnies have a quiet strength to them. They are super resourceful.