With Skippy, Things Get Lost In Translation


Three-year-old Skippy came home from school all excited yesterday because the teacher had showed them how to make a leopard trap.

Huh? I mean, I know they’ve been studying jungle animals — there has been a lot of tiger talk around the house and his box of plastic animals has been pressed into service again — but isn’t the topic of trapping going too far? Is that something we really want to encourage?

Yet I know that teachers of the very young often get misunderstood in translation. When my own son was five, he told me that his kindergarten teacher had told him that his head was like a watermelon. So when I went to pick him up the next day, I asked for “Ol’ watermelon-head.”

“Oh, no, no, no!” the teacher quickly rushed to clarify. “We were discussing dinosaurs, and I said that the brontosaurus has a brain the size of a walnut. I said, ‘If that is so, what size brain do you think Charlie has?’ and one of the children said, ‘A watermelon!’ I think they meant it as a compliment, actually.”

Oh. That’s different.

So yesterday, upon hearing that my grandson was being taught to trap leopards, I had to take a step back and try to get the facts. No need to call the World Wildlife Federation just yet.

“What did the trap look like?” I asked Skippy.

“It a box up on two sticks and when the leopard goes in the box — smack (he claps his hands together ferociously) — it caught!”

Hmm. Could work. “Did the teacher actually make one?”

“Uh-huh!” (Skippy clearly loves this teacher.)

“And did she catch a leopard?”

(Sadly) “Uh-uh. We go outside, and when we come back (brightening), cookies!”

“There were cookies under the trap?”

“And money with words on it!”


“And green footprints all around!”

Green footprints? Oh! “Leprechaun footprints?”

“Yes! I told you! Leopard footprints!”

I didn’t straighten him out. Maybe next year. Because I don’t think a teacher who attempts to trap a small, bearded mythological man is nearly as impressive as a teacher who tries to lure a full-grown leopard into the classroom for the edification of her students.

Let Mrs. Rudman enjoy her status as a fearless adventurer for awhile. To inspire a bit of awe in those you lead is a good thing.