Insecticidal Psychology

I’m so glad your kids are back in school. (So are most of you, from what I’m reading.)

Just today, Mike and I took the girls to San Francisco’s brand-spanking-new science museum that’s so popular they had to import white-gloved crowd shovers from the Japanese commuter train.

But school’s started now for y’all, and while the place certainly wasn’t empty, both Boo and Emme were able to sit on individual enormous stone cats, no pushing.


Crowds? What crowds?

You may remember that on our last visit, Boo was nearly slugged by a six-year old, and it warmed my heart to think that said aggressor was probably at that very moment peeling spuds or cleaning latrines or whatever it is they make really bad first graders do these days.

At issue on that visit was an interactive floor-based computer game that we like to call Bug Stomp. The point, however, isn’t actually to stomp: you’re supposed to gently toe the projected images of beetles into bug traps. But if you stomp them, they scurry off into the shrubbery with a satisfying rustle. As a result, the exhibit is usually packed with a dozen kids, smashing away.

Mine, especially. Boo leads in with a bit of a grand jeté before delivering the fatal blow on the virtual ladybugs’ virtual heads. Even as a bug lover, I can’t help but be proud at her determination.

I’ve been fascinated to note that on every visit, there’s exactly one kid who can’t stand that all the other kids are smashing the bugs. Sometimes it’s a boy and sometimes a girl, but the pattern is identical: said child runs around desperately trying to keep the other kids from stomping.

This little Insect Protector never expresses concern for the bugs themselves, though. The real problem is that rules are being broken. You’re not supposed to stomp, you’re supposed to nudge. Do. It. RIGHT!

I always smile at this kid, the desperate one who wants to play the game correctly. He (or she) is a hopeless case, destined to a life where very few people will ever live up to his (or her) ideals. There’s no remedy, except, of course, to somehow chill out and accept the wide gap between the way things are and the way things should be: the chasm between bug stomping and bug nudging.

And how do I know this, you ask, about some kid I’ve only just seen for a few minutes at the Bug Stomp game?

Isn’t it obvious? That kid, once, was me.