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.