S“So Ezra, when do you think we should …” “White ibis!” Ezra shouted, pointing out my mother’s window
in Florida. I leaned forward on
the couch and peered out. Sure
enough, my five-year-old had
found two pearly white ibises
strolling through a neighbor’s
yard. As a fledgling parent, I
was both annoyed and thrilled.
Should I admonish him for interrupting my question, which I
could no longer remember? Or
should I congratulate him for
both finding and correctly naming one of Florida’s most dazzling birds. Before I could decide,
his grandmother walked in and
joined us at the window.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you
what those white birds are,” she
said, trying to sit down slowly
without spilling her coffee.
“They’re actually white ibises,
Grandmom!” Ezra peppered
much of his speech with the word
“actually,” and he usually used it
with a slightly know-it-all tone.
Oh, boy. So not only was my son
interruptive, he was also pedantic.
If any kid was going to get beat
up at school, it was the know-it-all pedant with an overt fondness
for the word “actually.” But then
again, I was partly proud, because
Ezra’s grandmother had a vexing
habit of calling every egret, stork,
and ibis a “white bird” regardless
of their innumerable differences.
It drove me nuts.
Although I would have loved
to blame my wife’s DNA for
Ezra’s behavior, I knew I was
guilty. Through my daily unfortunate modeling, I had shown Ezra
that a man regularly interrupts a
conversation to point out a bird,
compulsively corrects a wrongly
labeled bird, and often slams on
the brakes when a rare (which
often turns out to be common)
bird is spotted. Even worse, when
my wife was driving and I spotted
a bird, I have shown him that an
ostensibly sane man pounds on
the dashboard and pleads to pull
over. For safety and sanity, my
ELI J. KNAPP
Birders Can’t Ride