This is a story about the demise of a mini planet.
It was a birthday gift for my 5-year-old boy from his grandfather, a pack of balls shaped exactly like the eight planets in our solar system, and one bonus moon ball. Pluto, as it seems is no longer defined as a planet and was excluded from the group of planets. See, our boy has had a fascination with the solar system and space ever since he was 3 years old when we showed him a 30-minute video of a tour of the international space station. Since then he was hooked to all things space, be it the solar system planets, the Mars rover, or space exploration.
However, this story is about Mercury, the most unfortunate planet of the lot. Some facts on Mercury, it is the closest planet to the sun and the smallest in our solar system. It has a rocky surface with extremely hot temperatures in the day, extremely cold at night, and has a very dense molten core.
You see the balls were soft and bouncy, and the kids loved it. It was thrown and bounced around the house, occasionally getting stuck or lost under furniture, and then being found by the kids again, to being brought into their beds at night where they would sometimes cuddle these soft planet balls to sleep in their bed.
So what happened to the mercury ball? Did it collided with another planet ? Did a stray asteroid hit it and split it up into huge chunks that are now floating away in space?
No, what happened was the kids found out its center was actually soft and foam-like, unlike what was said in the documentaries, it was not dense solid-state rock. You could squish it with enough force, and apparently, it was too irresistible to our teething one-year-old daughter.
Like her siblings, she loved to play with the balls. When mum and dad were not looking, she grabbed the mercury ball, went to a corner, and gave in to temptation, and took a bite. So soft, she thought, she took another bite, all eight little baby teeth sinking into mercury, creating bite marks on the ball.
“Emma!“ a voice hollered across the hall towards her, ‘No!, no biting the planet balls!”. She saw us coming and started to run away, mercury still in her grasp. Fortunately, her legs are short, mummy caught up with her quickly and took mercury away. The one-year-old protested with a loud wail, then threw her body flat on the floor and kicked her legs, then looked back at mummy with anger. Alas, the damage was done, although the ball was still intact, it had bite marks all over it.
That night, the 3-year-old spotted mercury on the dining table and took it to bed with her. After mummy and daddy had tucked her into bed and left the room, she took mercury out from under her blanket and played with it. She noted that there were bite marks on it from her baby sister, and she started to dig her nails into those bite marks, and started peeling. It felt nice to peel, she thought, and she peeled deeper in and separated chunks of the planet apart.
Daddy came into the room a short while later, to remind her and her brother to sleep. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a chunk of mercury on her pillow, his eyes widened, he went nearer to pick it up and half-whispered “Mercuriee….?“. Our 3-year old girl was reprimanded sharply by daddy, along the lines of “Don’t peel planet balls” and “Don’t dig your nose or belly button”, since all three actions sort of fell in the same category of weakness for our kid. Mercury’s pieces were taken out, and we tried to salvage what we could. Fortunately, it seems we got all the pieces back.
To prevent the broken chunks of Mercury from colliding with the other planets, namely, Venus who was the closest to it, then earth, mummy collected all the broken pieces of Mercury and placed them into a container, contemplating whether she should glue them back together or let the kids paint the inner white foam parts, then glue them down on to a base and make it into a display unit, potentially to be themed as ‘Toddlers, the Planet Destroyers’.
At least for now, the damage is contained. As for the 3-year-old, she learned her lesson not to peel and break the planet balls apart, so the remaining planets are safe. However, the 1-year-old couldn’t be reasoned with, despite our efforts, we suspect it could be due to her age. So, there is still the looming threat of the other planets being bitten by her.
To this I say, stay safe, and stay bouncy, planet balls, and thank you for your service.