October 12, 2011

The Care and Feeding of a Geologist: A Guest Post by Barbara Mervine

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

My mom heard that I was a little bit too busy to keep up with my regular blog writing over the next few weeks, so she volunteered (jokingly, I thought!) to write my blog for me. She just sent me this brilliant guest post… enjoy! Mom, I love you very much. Thanks for this wonderful post!

Mom and I, circa 1988 or so.

The Care and Feeding of a Geologist

By, Barbara Mervine

Evelyn is busy getting married, so as her mother I offered to guest host her blog.  I am an artist and a teacher, not a geologist. However, I feel I do have some expertise in raising a geologist.

Geologists are often born, not made.  Shortly after birth, the parents of a born geologist notice something different about their child.   Some parents try to interest their young child in other subjects, such as birds or stamp collecting.  However, it is best to just give up and accept that your child is different.

Here are just some of the challenges I had raising a geologist:

*At a very early age (8 months) Evelyn exhibited signs of having pica, the odd desire to eat objects that are not food. Evelyn’s pica seemed to be restricted to eating small rocks.  I have video taken by her father of her crawling along outside, picking up small rocks and bits of dirt and putting them in her mouth.  I would then take the rocks and dirt out of her mouth.  Her pediatrician assured me she would outgrow it.  The pediatrician forgot to warn me she would never  outgrow her love of rocks.

*While clothes washing is a challenge for any parent with a child who loves the outdoors as much as Evelyn does, for the parent of a geologist it is especially frustrating.  Failure to carefully check all pockets before washing clothes results in a “thunk thunk” as rocks tumble around the washing machine.  Those not ejected in the washing machine make it to the dryer, where the resulting sound is an even more intense “THUNK THUNK.”

*Rock collecting starts as soon as the child can lift things.  The room of the geologist child is beyond the power of any parent to dust.  Rocks fill every space, from bookshelves to under the bed.  Stubbed toes result from rocks on the floor as the parent wonders, “How did she even lift a rock that size?”

*Keeping the young geologist safe can be an almost full time job for a parent.  The child walks with her head pointed down.  That’s because down is where the rocks live.  Beaches, woodland trails, newly paved streets, the neighbors’ garden border– rocks are everywhere!  The child never looks up enough to see mundane, boring things like cars, mean dogs, other people, birds.  Pretty much anything that’s not a rock isn’t worth looking at.

*The parent of the geologist dreads the day that the child becomes a teenager  and begins learning  to drive.  That is because now the child’s habit of looking for rocks while in the car becomes looking for rocks while driving a car.  Rock cuts on highways are a danger that all parents of geologists should be aware of. For example,  Evelyn was once traveling with a group of geologists from MIT when they stopped the van along the side of a major highway. All the geologists piled out to go look at a rock cut.  The police man who gave them tickets for illegal stopping on a highway was not impressed with their excuse that millions of years of history was revealed right there before his eyes.  He pointed out that hundreds of cars were right there going by at high speeds.  Obviously, the police man did not have a brother or sister who was a born geologist.

*Geologists tend to date and perhaps even marry fellow geologists.  This can be a problem.  When Evelyn brought home her soon-to-be-husband Jackie, dinner conversations became dominated by talk about rocks…  talk about rocks that had the rest of the family nodding and smiling and thinking, “What are they talking about?”  Then you realize that your child has her perfect match.  My daughter and her fiance will spend the rest of their lives enabling each other to be the ultimate rock geeks they always wanted to be.


Happily, there is hope.  Perhaps one day Evelyn and Jackie will have a child of their own.  That child may one day crawl out in the yard and start eating rocks.  Or that child may crawl out in the yard and start eating insects.  Yes, they could give birth to….an entomologist.