A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
OUT OF THE MOUTH OF ADOLESCENTS
One of the great things about being the parent of a seventh grader is you never know what interesting information is going to come home from school
Like last night. We were eating dinner, enjoying some lovely, lively conversation with our college-aged daughter, Andrea, who was home for a visit, when all of a sudden, out of the blue, Jon dropped this bombshell on us: “Male seahorses are mommies.”
This would have been an interesting tidbit to drop into the conversation if we had been talking about traditional parental responsibilities, or gender-based roles in various animal species. But as I recall, we were talking about Andrea’s role in an upcoming production of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and the only thing close to seahorses in that show are Zuzu’s petals (if you say them really fast they sort of sound alike: “Seahorses.” “Zuzu’s petals.” “Seahorses.” “Zuzu’s petals.” OK – maybe not.)
As you might expect, Jon’s pronouncement brought the conversation to a screeching halt. We all stared at him, dumbfounded. I mean, what is the proper follow-up to a comment like that? Jon took advantage of the sudden silence to elaborate: “We learned that in science today. Male seahorses are mommies. They are the ones who give birth to their children.”
Now, I’ve got to be honest with you. I know about as much about seahorse childbearing as I do about ancient Scandinavian agricultural techniques. In other words, nothing. So rather than attempt an intelligent response that might leave me sounding like a complete doofus, I did what any parent would do in that situation: I bluffed.
“The way I see it, that means one of two things happened,” I said, grasping at both biological and theological straws. “Either God made seahorses first and saw that the `male mommy’ thing didn’t work out very well, or else He made them last and decided, `What the heck – let’s give it a shot!’”
Thankfully, Jon didn’t question my hypotheses,
possible blasphemy notwithstanding. Which
gave me an opportunity to change the subject to something I knew a little more
about: “Did any of you know that they did some pretty amazing farming in
After dinner I sat down in front of the computer and did some research and found out that Jon was a little confused about seahorses. The male of the species doesn’t actually give birth to its young. But the female does deposit her eggs into a pouch on the male’s abdomen, and the male takes charge of the eggs until they hatch.
Which confirms the nautical
rumor that female seahorses are completely irresponsible, often taking off for
long trips to
Even so, I have to confess that in the course of my research I actually learned a few things that were sort of interesting, and that I’m anxious to work into a conversation. You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself to mention that male seahorses can carry hundreds of little baby seahorses in their pouches, or that male and female seahorses are monogamous, or that seahorses sometimes change colors when they get around their mates (would you believe a bright, almost fluorescent orange on occasion?).
And you never know when something of real interest and value is going to come home from school with a seventh grader.
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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.