A Grocery Store for Tigers

When the kids caught me resting in bed again, I made light of it and invited them to watch a little tv with me.  We clicked through the channels and found nothing that we both wanted to watch, until we saw that Discovery was airing an old-school nature documentary.  Intrigued, we paused, and C joined me as we re-introduced the children to the wild beauty of a nature flick, tigers, gazelles, herons, and all. 

We watched the beauty of the savannah and the tiger leaping majestically through the air in final pursuit of the gazelle, landing with a thud as he broke the weaker animal’s neck and began to feast.  Then my children protested, stunned at the violence of the wild, asking “Why, Mommy?”  Why did that tiger chase the deer, Mommy?  Why that tiger EAT the deer?

Oh, my child.  My sweet, sensitive, sheltered children.  I’ve protected you from the harsh realities of cancer and death for so long that somehow I’ve neglected to teach you about death, and now you are 4 and 6 and shocked that animals must kill other animals for meat.  I remembered to teach you that death exists, as we bought guppy after guppy and talked about fish eating other fish, but your sensitive child minds never made the leap.

So we snuggled in and watched a little more and talked about it, your father at first making light of it, answering, “Because tigers can’t go to the grocery store!”  We laughed and snuggled and broke the hard facts to you gently and at the end you understood that tigers hunt to provide food for their families and for survival, and that we can be sad for the gazelles but happy for the tigers, because they got to feed their baby cubs.

And what you took away from it was fascinating, proclaiming after the movie,

Mama, when I grow up, I open a grocery store for tigers.

I chuckled and hugged you and told you that was a wonderful idea, for it was, and I was so proud of you for thinking of it.  For facing the problem head-on and for answering the violence that you saw with a creative, non-violent solution.  And so we all four agreed that when you boys grew up, we would move to the savannah and open the Niebur Family Grocery Store for Tigers.  Even though we knew full well that you would grow up and understand and lose interest in the meantime, we supported you two, and we took you seriously, and we wanted to help you change the world, to make it just a little better for the gazelles.

31 Responses to A Grocery Store for Tigers

  1. marty says:

    I love your boys so much.

  2. Bon says:

    you are raising kids who see violence and think of ways to make it unnecessary. i love that.

    (i also can’t watch nature docs…the story arc always centres on the whole nature red in tooth and claw theme, and though i accept its truth, it’s only one way of seeing the world. i’m with your kids)

  3. Kristen says:

    I love these kids so much. But I will not be offering to work the register on busy days. No one wants to be the one to make a ferocious tiger wait.

  4. That is just so lovely. You are an incredible mom and your boys are lucky to have you.

  5. Stacey says:

    Oh my goodness, this post (and Kristen’s comment) made me laugh out loud!

    I recently watched the new Earth documentary that features the “circle of life” and had to keep reminding myself of the gentle message you shared with your boys.

    Yes, death is necessary and inevitable, but we can always look for ways to reduce the suffering. Thanks again for this lovely post!

  6. Jenster says:

    I may not be a tiger, but I would definitely shop there!🙂

  7. loran says:

    Beautiful!!

  8. Marcia says:

    Thank you for brighting up my Easter with hope!

  9. Linda Lawrence says:

    Great story! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. Jane Gassner says:

    I still can’t watch those nature shows. The glorification of the kill bothers me, and I suspect it leads to similar glorification in the human race.

  11. One of my sons adored dinosaurs and memorized their names from a very young age. When he was about three, we were reading a book and the last page had all the dinosaurs lying in the snow. Why are they lying like that? They’re dead. Why are they dead? They are all extinct. I explained extinction and he started to sob:”I thought I would someday see a dinosaur in a zoo!” Oops! Forgot to tell him.

  12. Your boys are so awesome.🙂

  13. Clifford says:

    There’s a t-shirt or blog name in there somewhere.

  14. NYFriend says:

    I love that you took them seriously and supported them. What a wonderful gift to give!

    I really appreciate the previous comments too. 🙂

  15. Dorothy says:

    This is beautiful, Susan! How blessed your little boys are through their mother and father. IT is a special gift to have parents who take their little children’s ideas and thoughts seriously. Through doing this, you are planting amazing sees for their future. Wishing you many blessings on Easter and always. Continued prayers for healing through God’s grace. You are a shining light to your little boys, even on the days when their mommy needs to rest in bed. God’s peace be with you each day. Thank you for being a blessing to all of us!

  16. Dorothy says:

    That was supposed to read that “you are planting amazing SEEDS for their future.” Sorry for the typo!

  17. Alisa says:

    You write such a beautiful blog. I wish you the best. I read your blog a little when I was first going through cancer treatments 3 years ago, and now need to read again, how mothers and their children get through this, to encourage me that we can. Thank you.

  18. Stimey says:

    Your kids are so great.

  19. Catherine says:

    Thinking of you today, hope you’re having a wonderful day with your sweet boys.

  20. I love the pragmatism of small children. When they WANT to be pragmatic, that is.

  21. tracy thompson says:

    You can never tell what kids’ reactions are gonna be to these nature shows. A couple of years ago we took our then-8-year-old to see the Disney Earth Day movie, which featured a scene of some lions killing an elephant. My child, who by then had sat through countless viewings of bloodthirsty Orcs doing vile things to each other and humans (my husband’s idea to let her watch “Lord of the Rings,” NOT mine…)–this child, who had seen all this unspeakable if fictional carnage, turned to me in the all-too-real elephant scene and in a horrified voice audible to half the theater said, “WHY do they show this to CHILDREN?”

    • What a kick! It’s funny, isn’t it? My kids have (just recently) seen all three original Star Wars movies, but the lion eating the antelope was just too much …. I suppose they really do draw a line between fact and fiction!

  22. NoR says:

    Such wonderful human beings, you, your husband, and your children.

  23. JoC says:

    Love this! Especially the “I chuckled and hugged you and told you that was a wonderful idea, for it was, and I was so proud of you for thinking of it. For facing the problem head-on and for answering the violence that you saw with a creative, non-violent solution. And so we all four agreed that when you boys grew up, we would move to the savannah and open the Niebur Family Grocery Store for Tigers. Even though we knew full well that you would grow up and understand and lose interest in the meantime, we supported you two, and we took you seriously, and we wanted to help you change the world, to make it just a little better for the gazelles.”

  24. Lahdeedah says:

    This is just plain beautiful…

    xo

    Jill

  25. Ginny Mason says:

    Susan, this post was wonderful! After I read it, I had to share it with my husband and told him “this is sermon illustration material!”….he agreed. As pacifists we struggle with the pain, suffering and death in the natural world even though we know it is the so called ‘natural order’ of things. We agree, a grocery store for tigers is a must! Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights and stories.

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  27. sutari says:

    Hey Susan, Great story. But, um, TIGERS on the savannah eating gazelles? Surely you meant lions….

    I have always been surprised at how calm and accepting my animal loving daughter is about the fact that 1. we eat animals and 2. other animals eat animals. I guess she gets the whole “Circle of Life” thing…

  28. Lara says:

    Susan,

    I love their solution. This posted reminded me of one of the girls’ favorite books “The Tiger Who Came to Tea” by Judith Kerr. Let me know if you want to borrow it to read to the boys, before they move on to thier next great problem-solving solution!

    Lara

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