How many of you parents out there have had your wide-eyed and innocent young children ask you what it was like to live during the time of the dinosaurs? Makes you feel a little old, doesn’t it? I remember when my son was about three, very precocious, just learning about life, totally fixated on dinosaurs, and having no concept of time or age. To his young and impressionable mind, I was incredibly old, had answers for everything, and was as ancient as the pyramids of Egypt.
I remember one particular night, when I was tucking him into bed after he had spent hours reading books about dinosaurs so huge their footsteps shook the earth, playing with a plastic model of a toothy Tyrannosaurus Rex, and watching reruns of the Flintstones. As I gently kissed him on the forehead, turned off his Scooby Doo night-light, and pulled the covers up to his neck, he looked up at me with eager, loving and trusting eyes and said,
“Daddy; what was it like to live in caves, wear animal skins, drag mommy around by her hair, carry huge clubs, and run for your life from big, hungry dinosaurs?”
I rustled his hair, thought for a moment and said…….
I have to admit that I often got caught up in the moment, exaggerated a little, and spun some outrageous stories that would captivate my son, and fill him with awe and wonder. Some of the things I told him seem a little silly, now that I think about them. I think I can be forgiven for a few tall-tales told to a small boy who thought I could walk on water. At the time, I was his favorite man in the whole world, a super hero with amazing powers, and obviously, the oldest human being who ever lived. My wife also, didn’t escape some of our son’s questions. I guess it’s harder for a woman when your child thinks that you’re so old that you once spent your days making primitive clothing, starting fires with rocks, and scanning the sky with a wary eye for swooping, predatory Pterodactyls, with thirty-foot wing-spans.
Do you know something? I really don’t feel so old. I have to admit that I’m not as young as I once was, I’m finding a few gray hairs, and I’ve been waking up in the morning with some age-related aches and pains. I will say this though. I’m certainly not so old that I witnessed Moses part the red sea, helped a Neanderthal named Nog, invent the wheel, or stood at a cave entrance and watched massive, towering Brontosaurus grazing peacefully on the lush, primeval forests below.
My son is now a teenager, and he doesn’t believe anymore that his father once ran barefoot among towering trees and massive ferns, as he fled from swift and brutal Raptors that hunted in deadly and ravenous packs. He thinks that’s crazy. He also doesn’t believe that my wife and I dressed up in Zebra costumes to sneak onto Noah’s Ark, or that we survived the Dark Ages of medieval Europe by stocking up on flashlights and batteries. Sad to say though; he does think we’re both unbelievably old, technologically inept, have one foot in the grave, are out of touch with today’s music and culture, don’t understand the pressures of being young, and have no concept of what it means to be a teenager.
He may have a point, but it wasn’t too long ago that I, myself, was worrying about acne, believed that I knew everything, and was just learning that girls were not only wonderful, but extremely terrifying. I’m also not so old that I don’t remember what it felt like to be a small child. To look up at my father standing so tall next to me. To know that he would always be there to protect me from anything; even dinosaurs. To pull on his sleeve, look up into his eyes and say,
“Daddy, could I ride up on your shoulders? If a dinosaur shows up, I think it will be safer way up there. Besides, I know how fast you are. He’ll never catch us.”