DEAR ABBY: I disagree with the grouchy zookeeper who wants parents to stop "lying" to their kids about zoo animals. I have two children, 4 and 6, and I take them to the zoo for family time and to encourage their love of animals. If they see a small goat and say, "What a cute baby," I'm not going to correct them or run to a zookeeper for an education about pygmy goats. I'll say, "You're right. That's a cute baby. Let's see what other babies we can find." Sometimes it's more important to enjoy the moment and agree with a child than search for the correct answer. Zookeepers should credit parents for taking their kids to the zoo at all, and not be such sticklers for "details"! -- MOMMY IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR MOMMY: Please don't blame the zookeeper for wanting to do a conscientious job. Zoos were created for the purpose of education, conservation, recreation and research. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Many parents at the zoo are working parents, single parents, stressed parents. We are doing well just finding time to take our kids to the zoo. Sometimes we have to tell "white lies" because a young child will not accept "I don't know," and will repeat the same question until you give SOME answer and go on about your business. -- DRIVEN CRAZY IN THE PAST
DEAR ABBY: I know a lot about sea lions because I have volunteered at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., for six years. One day, a little girl stood next to me asking her dad why she didn't see any baby sea lions. He replied, "That's because the big ones eat the babies!"
The child, who was about 7, looked so horrified I thought she'd cry. I said, "That's not true, honey. The sea lions out there are daddies. The mommies and babies are somewhere else away from the people. They only eat fish; they don't eat their babies." The father gave me a white-hot glare of anger, but I still don't think I owed him an apology. What's the sense in telling a child such nonsense? -- SHERRILL IN SAN JOSE
DEAR ABBY: My family exhibited brown Swiss dairy cattle for years. Some of the comments we've heard: "The one with horns, that's the daddy cow," and my favorite, "The brown cows give chocolate milk." -- "FONDA" IN ANDREWS, TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: Allow me to share some "information" I overheard given by a teacher to a student on a Pacific gray whale-watching trip during the breeding season when an amorous male happened to roll over near the boat. In reply to the curious student's question, the teacher replied, "It's a periscope." -- AUDREY IN MARCELLUS, N.Y.
DEAR ABBY: My family are proud members of the Cleveland Zoological Society. One day we overheard a mother tell her son, "That's a boy lion. Do you know what a girl lion is called -- a TIGER!" My 8-year-old daughter approached the woman and asked, "Do you know the difference between caribou and reindeer?" After a moment's silence my daughter told her, "Caribou can't fly." The kid got it, but the mother didn't! -- ZOO FAMILY IN CLEVELAND
DEAR ABBY: My father used the zoo as a teaching tool for me. We went there almost daily. I spent the ages of 1 to 5 with him during the days; evenings with my mom. If a question arose about an animal and Dad didn't know the answer, he'd say, "Let's find out together," and we'd proceed to the library.
I'm 27 now. I still love reading, spend many days at the library, and have a profound love and respect for animals. I'm grateful my dad took the time to teach me all that when I was so young. Others could learn from his example. If they do, it will open a door for communication with their children, and everyone will benefit. -- FLORIDA GIRL