Friday, December 30, 2011

How a Chimpanzee Made a Mom Happy

 Do your kids have a favorite animal? Mine do. Animals are a big part of my kids lives. Not just our two dogs, our new cat that we rescued and our fish tank that we got for Christmas two years ago but the animals in our own backyard. We have saved baby bunnies in our yard from the hawk that would sit on our swing set. We have built protective cages over turtle nests in our front yard so that predators wouldn't eat them, and we have tried to put baby birds back in their nests that had fallen out. My kids love animals. 

Studies have found that there is a positive correlation between happiness and owning pets. Studies have shown that pets may influence people’s health as well by reducing blood pressure, improving heart attack victim’s likelihood of future survival, and by reducing factors of general health and annual medical needs. Several scientists have recognized that pets seem to help adolescents with anger and stress management. I know that when my kids get upset and they go to their room to be "alone" they seem to always take one of the dogs or the cat with them. 

Shannon has always loved dolphins. When Shannon was little her favorite Disney princess was Ariel. When we go to the ocean she is the first one in and the last one out. When we went on the Disney Cruise a few years ago we booked a dolphin encounter. Shannon was in heaven.

Timmy's favorite animal is the duck. Yes, the duck. In school, he has written stories about ducks. He has made up songs about ducks and he can sing The Duck Song on youtube word for word.

Molly's favorite animal is the horse. She has picked out posters for her room for when I repaint it. She has been reading a series of books called The Horse Dairies and she draws horses in her sketch book.

And then there is my Ryan. His favorite animal is the monkey or the chimpanzee. Last year, in third grade, Ryan chose the chimpanzee for his Animal Fair project. The Animal Fair is a big deal at their elementary school. Ryan was looking forward to third grade because of the animal fair. He knew Shannon had done her project on the dolphin, Timmy, the eagle (the duck wasn't a choice) and he knew he wanted the chimpanzee. When it was time to start working on the animal fair project, I remember the day when Ryan came home and told me that he had been assigned the chimpanzee. He was ecstatic with a smile on his face from ear to ear. It is not often that Ryan is excited about something he is learning in school. But this he was. I ordered him a few books from Amazon on chimpanzees as well as a National Geographic movie about Jane Goodall. He was motivated!

A lot of work goes into the Animal Fair. Each student learns to do research through books and the internet. They write a report. They make a poster. They make a diorama in art of their animal in their habitat. They write poems about their animals and they design a t-shirt. It's a big deal for these kids and they are so excited when the big day finally arrives and they get to show off all their work and what they have learned.

Ryan still loves monkeys and chimpanzees. Not long before Christmas, I found Ryan on the computer googling how to buy a monkey.

It doesn't surprise me that the chimpanzee is his favorite animal. Just look at my Ryan.

According to Ryan's research, chimpanzees and humans share 98% of the same DNA. 

Christmas came and Santa had done good. It wasn't the real monkey that he wanted but a robotic one named Dave. It came with a remote control and you can make Dave do different things and make different noises. This was Ryan's favorite toy.

Ryan hugging Dave.

I found this picture on my camera. Ryan must of wanted a picture of Dave.

This Wednesday was our last full day in NY. We went to the movies to go see We Bought a Zoo. It was very good and we enjoyed it but when we walked into the theater it was empty. I read somewhere that too many choices can cause unhappiness. Well, there were too many choices as to where we should sit. "No, this is too close...This is too far back...I want to sit next to Uncle Brian...I want to sit next to Mom." You know there is going to be someone that is unhappy, and that person was Ryan. Ryan was unhappy about where he was sitting and yet would not change seats with Timmy even though Timmy and Shannon were sharing a popcorn and weren't sitting next to each other. Ryan then decided he didn't want to sit next to anyone and got up and found a seat all by himself. Lots of drama but I knew he would be back and he was. He sat at the end of our row and I was at the other end with everyone in between. He still had on his mad face, he still was not going to talk to anyone but he was back. 

Then the previews after another..."That one looks good...I want to see that...When is that one coming out?" And then the next preview came on that changed Ryan for the rest of the movie...

When the preview started, I leaned over to see if I could see Ryan way down at the other end. He was mesmerized. When the trailer finished, he looked at me and we both gave each other a thumbs up and then I could see the anger melt away from his face and a sense of contentment came over him as he leaned back into his chair to watch the movie...all because of a chimpanzee. A little bit of messiness before we got to the glory.

Is there a positive correlation between happiness and interaction with animals? Well, this mom was certainly happy at the moment the Chimpanzee trailer came on that day in the movie theater...and so was Ryan.

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