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The Wonderful World of Kids & Dinosaurs

In the playroom, Henry lifts his stegosaurus up above his head and growls his best raspy growl. It’s a sound that makes me happy. If it were a real stegosaurus growling at me, I’d probably crap myself and hurl one of the kids at it in an effort to save myself.

But I don’t tell Henry that. He wouldn’t understand.

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Here and now, it doesn’t much matter, though. Here and now we are on the stained, dog hair–covered mountain known as the couch, and we are in the middle of something that can only really be described as part dinosaur war, part dinosaur parade.

Violet likes to take charge most of the time, and because she is 5 to Henry’s 3, we tend to let her lead the charge, so to speak.

“Henry! The brontosaurus is getting ready to have a picnic with T-Rex!” she hollers.

I take that as my cue and move my plastic $3 tyrannosaurus dude toward Henry’s brontosaurus, which he holds in the hand opposite the one waving old stegosaurus around.

It seems odd to me that T-Rex would suddenly decide to do some picnicking in the middle of what I had intended to be a full-frontal, and yes, violent, attack on just about every plastic Jurassic sucker in sight. But if I have learned one thing as a dad, it’s that when it comes to the flighty minds of the dinosaurs in these parts, you learn not to ask too many questions, you know? You learn to adapt and just go with the crazy flow.

In cheap plastic dinosaurs, kids grab fistfuls of mystery and power.

Dinosaurs have been something kids love since the dawn of good times. Thinking about exactly why that is over the past few days, I haven’t really been able to nail an answer to the wall or anything, but I have a feeling it has something to do with the serious power being generated up inside the brains of the young.

Imagination is a pretty good word to start with, I guess, but it’s actually not enough when you think about it. Between the ages of, say, 3 and 10, kids are experiencing a level of heightened awareness and higher consciousness that most adults spend a lot of money and energy chasing down a million different ephemeral rabbit holes. With kids, the results are phenomenal to watch—all twinkling eyes and faces bursting with the magic of honest-to-God realizations unfolding in the moment.

With adults, the pursuit usually lands a very select few in jobs at Pixar or something. More often, though, it lands ‘em in rehab.

Dinosaurs represent something to children that they can’t likely find anywhere else. A slew of pterodactyls and triceratops and spinosauruses—or whatever the hell kind you manage to find in the cheap bins at the dollar store or Walmart or wherever—when you dump them out of an old Nike box onto the carpet in front of even one set of totally un-jaded eyes, you are going to witness something pure and true, my friend.

Because the mere sight of dinosaurs tumbling out of nowhere into their field of vision makes most kids lose their freaking minds in the best human way possible.

For me and Violet and Henry, our dinosaur parades and battles probably resemble little that ever went down back when the behemoths still ruled this planet, but who cares, really?

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In cheap plastic dinosaurs, kids grab fistfuls of mystery and power and education and big, massive, scary teeth that can bite into a dad’s hairy gross arm in a way that inspires sparks up in their tiny heads that are bigger and better than anything you or I can ever even come close to knowing any more.

Unless we get down there on the carpet alongside them, that is. Unless we get down there and wrap our big sausage fingers around a T-rex neck every couple of nights after dinner and just go to town eating everything and everyone in the damn room.

Well, that or take a stegosaurus on a picnic, depending on which way the toddler winds are blowing.

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