Our lil family has a favorite game, and the way it’s won is by preserving momma’s sanity with three children and no volume control. We stick to animals to keep it simple, and a turn always starts with the phrase “I’m thinking of an animal,” followed by three clues.
We play the guessing game during long drives and boring waits, and I am working to slowly introduce concepts like animal families (Is it a primate? A reptile?) and habitats- does it live on land? Underwater? Underground?
Khalid, almost inevitably- is thinking of a dinosaur of some sort. This is useful- because that’s how we introduced the concept of extinction. Now, some kids know five or six dinosaurs. Khalid, on the other hand, knows almost all of them. Really. MashaAllah- all of them. He has memorized almost three encyclopaedias of dinosaurs, so when he’s thinking of an animal with four legs, a tail, and a long neck- he’s not thinking of a giraffe. He’s thinking of a dipolodocus. Or a mamenchisaurus. Or an argentinosaurus. Or a camarosaurus, which is also known as a morosaurus. I believe there are HUNDREDS of -sauruses that serve no current purpose other than to confuse and bewilder anyone trying to guess Khalid’s animal. Such is the universe.
He takes pity on us, and tells us the first letter of the dinosaur’s name when we’ve gotten stumped. Then, he tells us the second. Then the third. Sometimes he will spell out the whole name and I will be no more clued in to what dinosaur he’s talking about- just because he can spell it doesn’t mean I can say it, or know what the heck it looks like. Case in point: Do you know what this dinosaur is called?
It’s a parasaurolophus. I spent almost twenty minutes once, wracking my brain and trying to figure this dinosaur out before asking Khalid to finally spell it for me, and even then- I still didn’t know what he was talking about.
Iman’s MO for the guessing game is adorable. She doesn’t pick animals that are difficult, or get upset when her animal is discovered. For the most part she isn’t even picking animals, she’s actually picking people.
Iman is acutely aware of who hasn’t had a turn in a while, and when she successfully guesses an animal and gets her turn, she will tailor her choice of animal to the person that she feels needs one. She will direct her clues right to the person she has in mind. For HF, she will usually be thinking of a shark. For Khalid, she will be thinking of a dinosaur. For me, she will be thinking of a lion or giraffe, and for Musfira- she is always, ALWAYS thinking of a cat. Why? Because Musfira is always thinking of a cat too.
Musfira’s ability to participate in the guessing game has been increasing step by adorable step. In the beginning, she was struggling with the concept, and would just repeat the last clue that she heard. If Iman said, “I’m thinking of an animal with two legs,” then Musfira would ask, “Is it two legs?”
When she realized that we were looking for answers instead of echoes, she started guessing as well.
Iman: “Musfira, I’m thinking of an animal with four legs, with brown spots, that says moo.”
Musfira: “Izzit the sun?”
Momma: “No dear, the sun is not an animal. We’re only thinking about animals.”
Musfira: “Oh, ok! Izzit Lighting McKeen!”
Musfira had an epiphany one day, and she correctly guessed the lion that Iman was directing towards me. That was her first chance for a real turn, and she started out pretty good:
“I’m thinking of a animo-”
“It has four legs…”
“And, it’s a cat!”
Musfira grins expectantly, anticipating all the exciting questions we should now be asking her. Iman raises an eyebrow and says, “Musfira, are you thinking of a cat?”
“Guj-job Iman!” Musfira cheers, “Your turn!”
We’ve played this game hundreds of times since, and Musfira’s ability to sort and label is getting better, and so her turns are getting more interesting. However, they have yet to move beyond cat.
Once Musfira said to me, “Momma, I’m thinking of a animo. It has four legs, two ears, and iss bigger than a cat.”
“How interesting!” I said, excited that Musfira could finally be breaking free from her cat-only streak. “Is it a dog?”
“Is it a cow?”
“Does it eat grass?”
I tried a few angles and eventually I gave up.
“Alright Musfira, you were thinking of an animal with four legs and two ears that was bigger than a cat. What was it?”
Musfira beamed. “A bigger cat.”
We have since thought of smaller cats, as well as a pink cat, specifically Musfira’s long-time crib companion, Meow-Meow.The only time we’ve ever thought of anything other than cat was on the way home from the Dubai Mall after we had surprised the children with a trip to see the dinosaur fossil being exhibited there. It was a diplodocus. Khalid knew this within seconds of seeing it, even before he was within range of the exhibit information. He looked at the fossil- suspended from the ceiling in all its fossilized awesomeness- and he smiled and said, “It’s a North-American dipolodocus.”
We oohed and aahed, marvelled at the hugeness of its legs and the tinyness of it’s really tiny head. Later, there was ice-cream, and on the way home Musfira suddenly announced, “I’m thinking of an animo!”
Iman interrupted, “It’s a cat.”
Musfira snarked back. “I didn’t finish my clues.” She has learned this phrase verbatim from Khalid and Iman and their tendency to start guessing before the clues are even given.
“I’m thinking of an animo, ” Musfira continued, “It has four legs, a long… long… long…. neck. And, a tiny, small head.”
“Is it a diplodocus?” Khalid piped up excitedly from the back of the van.
I felt I should translate. “Musfira, Khalid is asking if it’s a dinosaur.”
Iman tried again, “Musfira are you sure it’s not Meow-Meow?”
“Is your animal pink?” Iman pushed.
“Yes!” Musfira said.
A few seconds of silence passed. “Musfira,” I said slowly, “Are you thinking of… a pink dinosaur?”
“Hooray Momma! You did it!”
The game has only gotten better and more interesting since Musfira has started participating actively. HF was playing with her at bath-time the other day, and as he pulled her pajamas off he said, “Musfira, I’m thinking of an animal with four legs, a long neck, and it lives in the desert.”
“Oh! Izzit a chicken?”
“Musfira,” HF said, “This animal gives milk!”
(Musfira- who has a bovine milk allergy- has been raised on camel milk.)
“Izzit a milk?”
“Milk is not an animal dear.”
“Izzit a tannasaurus!”
And so, the awesomeness continues. Alhamdulillah.