In My Ohio

​On Every Animal My Son Becomes

Darren C. Demaree
​My son is a lion. He is also a hippopotamus, a crocodile, a dog, and a shark. Each animal has a sound, a walk, and even a dance. There are times when he will be an animal for thirty minutes at a time, and until he declares himself a “boy” again. We behave accordingly. I love it. It feels like he’s preparing me for the dozens of different people he will try to be as he grows up. My role as his father appears to be keeping the animals from overtaking the boy. His role is simply to inhabit himself in every variation he stumbles upon.

The Lion

​There will be a point when he finds some strength. He will perform well in school, in sports, or one day he will simply like the way he looks in the mirror. That day he will become unbearably confident. He will roar. It will make sense to us because he has always been a Katy Perry fan, but to the rest of the world that strut will look obnoxious. He will trip or get embarrassed, it will fade quickly, but it’s an important thing to have happen. To, for even a second, to feel strong is something he can carry with himself for a long time. It was fifteen to twenty years ago, but I still remember baseball games where I had four or five hits. That one moment of strength can buoy you, even as an adult.

The Hippopotamus

​The gregarious, silly, awkward nature of growing up always leaves a mark. He will bump into things, people, and situations and he will wreck them. He won’t just fumble the idea or the person; he will trample it or them. He won’t mean to, there will be no malice, but it will happen. The giant chomping mouth of Thomas will continue make loud sounds no matter what.

The Crocodile

​There is always a part of a person that is mostly below the water. It can be harmless, or it can be an incredibly dangerous. So, whatever part of him is a secret part, it will not be my job to make it public. It will be my job to keep educated and alert to the possibilities and danger of keeping large parts of yourself hidden from the world. 

The Dog

​Thomas is such a gentle, loving boy, and his favorite animal to be is a dog. He wants to bark, crawl along, and sit in your lap. He wants to be warm with you. The hope is that since this is most comfortable animal-mode that this might be his dominant personality. Obviously, he won’t be entirely loyal or good, but if he can keep that warm/close part of his personality he will be draw people in and make them feel special. I think you want your children to be able to keep that warmth, it’s not a necessity, but it gives you hope that if you’re ever not around they won’t be alone.

The Shark

​We all have parts of ourselves that just want to see the blood in water, that just want to thrash around, and make the water unsafe for everybody. Thomas definitely has a little shark in him. There are times when he just barrels through the house, knocking things and people down. He smiles and destroys a room. Part of it is how young he is, and part of it is how much he loves chaos. You have to calm down that part of it, because it doesn’t slow down without a little help. I didn’t have that as a child or really until I was eighteen, but for about six years or so I behaved in this manner. He’s my son, and this is the part of him I will have to track carefully, talk to him about it, and always be available with a hand to lift or protect him. I can’t stop him from the adrenaline that will take him to tenuous places, but I can tell him what I did when I found myself in those same places.
​I’m crazy about Thomas. He is so smart, so fun, and so loving. He is also a zoo of a little boy. He will be a zoo of a teenager, and a zoo of an adult. I can’t wait to see how where each strength and each weakness takes him.