Do not underestimate the power of the wall beside your child’s bed.
I didn’t really think much about it last summer, when I thumb-tacked that map of the world above Mr. T’s bed. He’d been interested in maps lately, and this one was colorful, with cute pictures of animals. I thought he’d like it.
I had no idea that such a small act would eventually prove my fathomless ignorance.
At first he was simply fascinated by certain places on the map. Mongolia. Sri Lanka. Greenland.
But soon he began to talk about places I’d never heard of.
Him: “Did you know that Norway is one of the highest countries in the world? Because of Spitsbergen.”
Turns out it’s a Norwegian island in the Arctic Circle.
And, “Can you find Myanmar on the globe?”
Myanmar? I’ve never heard of Myanmar.
“It’s Burma, Mama.”
We didn’t realize how much he’d been studying the map until one afternoon when Mr. T was spinning our globe at the kitchen table. Chris started naming countries for him to find.
“D-a-d-d-y! That’s too easy!”
“Laos.” He found it.
“Tajikistan.” Got it.
“Oman.” No problem.
I think Chris finally stumped him with Eritrea.
I’m just glad he hadn’t asked me to play. Although I could have found Argentina.
Another day my parents were over for dinner, and my dad started telling about a radio story he’d heard about Bangladesh. The story, he said, claimed that Bangladesh’s population was almost 160 million–in an area the size of Iowa.
Chris, a numbers guy, thought that sounded funny. “That can’t be right. That’s half the population of the United States.”
“It is right,” piped up Mr. T, and he ran out of the kitchen. Soon he was back, with a notebook and a pencil in his hand. He’d written out the number 133376684. “This how many people are in Bangladesh. It says so on my map.”
Which proves, you realize, that the kid has lain in bed looking at his map and contemplating the population of Bangladesh. (His map, with data from 2002, is already a bit outdated.)
I showed him some online geography games here. He played the alien game, in which the names of countries flash on the screen, and you click on the appropriate country on a very small map, so the alien knows where to go. T knew the locations of Greece, Saudi Arabia, Chad. Click, click, click. Lulu and I watched behind him, and when he clicked on Chad, we looked at each other sheepishly, knowing that if we played, our aliens would be lost and teleporting back home in no time.
He never asked to go back to that geography site again. Too easy.
He loves to play Scrambled States of America–but I’ve learned that my typical game-playing tact of “going easy on him” is not in my best interest here. He knows where all the states are, and he knows the capitals (sheesh!) My chances are better with Passport to Culture because the game includes questions about culture, instead of just geography. And I beat him at Take Off! the other day–only because we were playing the basic version, in which luck factors more than geographical knowledge. If we played “The Challenge Game,” I’d be a goner.
The corner of Mr. T’s map are bedraggled because he lies on his bed looking at it, while walking his feet up the wall. The map is constantly loosening from its tacks, and left dangling from one corner. I told T I’d like to find another copy of it, and have it mounted so it would be sturdier.
“No! I like this one!”
Clearly he does. But some day, if he tires of it, I’ll put some thought into what goes in its place, knowing what may follow. A Table of the Elements might be a good choice for the spot. Or a diagram of the complete animal kingdom. Or how about an elaborate timeline of the world, from pre-history to modern times?
Yeah, that would be good.