The Disney alligator attack has been especially horrific to my wife and I as we have one boy the same age as the victim and another who is not much older. How could this happen, what could have prevented it? What began as a discussion of how, as parents, we could prevent that sort of thing happening to our children, turned into a forked road for teaching the children about death.
We were talking about how the little boy was grabbed by the alligator at night after the movie, and unbeknownst to us the 3 year old had been listening in intently. He looked up at me with the most serious face and asked me “what happened, did they go back to their house and go to sleep”?
With everything inside me I wanted to say “yes, they went home and his daddy read him a story and he went to sleep.” But I didn’t. I couldn’t. While I want him to enjoy his childhood and keep his innocence as long as possible, he’s going to grow up and need to live and function in this cruel world. I’ve got to do better for my kids than those parents whose children are crying at college because someone wrote #Trump2016 in chalk.
With heart crushing sorrow I looked down at him and said “no buddy, the alligator grabbed and ate him.” Seeing that phrase written down, it only looks marginally less horrible than I felt saying it to him. His eyes got really big and he said “It ate him? Why?”
So I explained to him that alligators get hungry & sit at the edge of the water at night and wait for something to come by, and then they grab and eat them. I saw the look of awful surprise on his face change to understanding as he said “some animals eat during the daytime, and some animals eat during night time.”
My wife and I had been slightly appalled when my father-in-law had given the kids a book about predators and read to them about predators killing & eating other animals. It was a book for 8+ and not toddlers, but it’s grandpa so what’re you going to do? Still, after my son relayed his understanding of how animals hunt and eat, I understood why his grandfather had gotten him the book even at that age.
This led to a solemn discussion about why it was important that he stay next to mommy and daddy when we’re out so we can protect him, and not to go by water unless we are with him. As humans we’re afraid of the unknown, whether it’s what lurks in the darkness of night that might eat us, or just death in general. But understanding and accepting these things, as unpleasant as they are, helps to give us peace and allows us to live overall happy lives.
Comrade Turner is doing his best to raise his sons to be masculine little badasses. Sometimes he talks about it on twitter @WrongThinkBlog