Finally, meerkats made it to the front page – as educators. Yes, according to scientists, meerkats are teaching their pups how to be meerkats.
OK, I know what you're thinking: Shouldn't meerkats' offspring be kittens? I'm with you, but what can you do? Scientists have no sense of language symmetry.
Anyway, researchers have finally found proof that young meerkats have not been watching and copying adult meerkats. They have not figured things out on their own. No, it turns out that their parents are teaching them.
Of course, I doubt the meerkat pups see it that way. No doubt – like my own children – they see the adults around them as simply an audience for their cute stunts, ticket holders to their nightly performance of "run around the burrow."
Yes, I'm sure every generation of pups has been totally oblivious to the painstaking way the adult meerkats around them remove the stingers from the scorpions prior to passing them along for a little "Hunting Poisonous Stuff 101." They never take notice of how the stunned geckos just suddenly drop into their laps like manna from meerkat heaven.
Up until now, not even scientists had what they considered proof that meerkat moms and dads were teaching their pups. No one gives parents much credit these days.
I completely empathize with the meerkat parents. I had no idea how difficult it was to observe my own actions as a parent until my daughter told me, "You never do laundry."
"What are you talking about?" I asked, looking up from a tall pile of folded towels.
"I never see you do laundry," she said, bounding out of the laundry room – in "magically" clean clothes, I noticed.
It took the every ounce of spring-scented Bounce to keep me from following her to her room and emptying the entire basket of clean clothes on her head. Then I realized something. I apparently have been given a secret power. I can clean, feed, and teach my children while they remain completely oblivious to the fact that I am doing it.
I can place 5,000 clothing items in drawers, making it seem as if the dresser itself is the mysterious provider of clean clothes.
I can bring home a dozen library books that appear just in time for bedtime and return them before anyone realizes what has happened. It makes you wonder – does the CIA have any openings?
It's now obvious that the mantle of invisible parenting stretches across species. It takes research printed in a scholarly scientific journal for anyone to actually notice that parenting is, in fact, happening in burrows – and boroughs – everywhere.
To their credit, adult meerkats seem to refrain from dumping a pile of recently de-stingered scorpions on top of their pups and storming out of the burrow.
But I imagine there are days that they're tempted.