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10:19 a.m. - April 11, 2007
Dad Learns A Lesson
There are times that you feel like a total heel when you are a parent, even if you had the best of intentions.

I've been TiVoing the new Discovery channel series Planet Earth and last night finally found a chance to watch the first part of it.

It was spectacular. Anyone not concerned about the Earth and what we're doing to it should sit down and watch it. Yes, I'm looking at YOU Senators Inhofe and Stevens.

Just seeing the mass migration of caribou in the arctic, or the treks that the elephants make in the Kalahari for fresh water, and then seeing the elephants romp and frolic in the water (who knew elephants could swim so well) gives you great pause about this planet.

It was after dinner, and Liz was scurrying to her nightly (so it seems) meeting and before I gave the girls a bath I was just relaxing with them.

The first thing they showed were polar bears and Kristin was all "Bears! Bears!" and Katie, being the concerned 5-year old, was asking how the babies were going to walk on that ice and if they were going to be OK.

I assured her that the momma bear and baby bears would be fine but they just needed to go find food. The paws of a polar bear are made to walk on ice and snow. Katie asked what they ate, and I said seals.

"They eat seals? Oh no!"

Yeah, polar bears aren’t really vegetarians.

The next segment showed the caribou migration, and then, of course, they showed a pack of wolves following the caribou.

Of course, in shows like these, the carnivores tend to be 'villains' but wolves have to eat, same as caribou (to paraphrase Josey Wales) and wolves eat caribou. But there’s always a balance to life. If there weren't wolves, there'd be way too many caribou and the caribou wouldn’t be as strong of a species as they are now, because the weak members of the herd wouldn't be culled.

Darwin had this thing figured out, didn't he?

Anyway, against my better retroactive judgment, we watched this segment. It showed the wolves on attack, breaking off a few caribou from the main herd. Then there was one wolf that was chasing a baby caribou.

Now, a baby caribou is faster than a wolf, but the wolf has stamina, and is just waiting for a slip or a mistake.

And of course, Katie is riveted to the screen. (Kristin had wandered off to make us all some coffee. That's what she does, it seems, make coffee for us all with the play kitchen and play tea set that she inherited from her sister.)

"Is the baby going to be OK, Daddy?"
"I don’t know, let's just watch."

Then, the baby caribou slips, and the wolf pounces.

"Daddy, I didn't want the baby caribou to die. Waaaaaah!"


What the heck do you do now, except hustle the kids up to bath time?

On the way up there, I explained to Katie that yes that baby caribou didn’t make it, but there were many many others that did make it and will grow up and be big and strong.

That seemed to calm her down for a while. But after I found towels and jammies, and got them in the tub, then...

"Waaaaaaah! Why did that wolf have to eat that baby caribou?"

Oh, boy. Would it be like this all night?

I explained to Katie that the wolf had to eat to live, otherwise it would die. In the wild, sometimes animals eat other animals. Our cats would eat mice and other small creatures if they lived in the wild.

I also reminded her about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores, since she learned about them in Montessori.

That seemed to calm her down, because the next time she got upset was when I was taking her sister out of the tub. So I relented and gave them another few minutes of tub time together before putting Kristin to bed.

Katie had time to read one book, and it was an Aladdin (Disney version) story book that we got from her cousins in Arizona. Of course, this book had a gimmick in that for certain words you needed the 'magic carpet' that could decode the words, otherwise, you had to squint and read the blue letters inside this red and green box. And of course, the magic carpet had long been lost before we got the book.

So I either squinted, or made up words, or skipped sentences. Anyway, Aladdin and Jasmine got married and all was happy in the world. The end.

Katie went to sleep, and stayed in bed, with no more crying about baby caribou.
I watched the rest of that show, and the footage is spectacular. I really loved the mating dance of the Bird Of Paradise in New Guinea, where the female just blows off the male at the end of his strutting and preening. But they showed another hunt, some amazing footage where a pack of wild dogs went after an impala and the impala barely escaped when part of the pack killed another impala.

They also showed a great white shark go after a seal, and while the seal made a valiant fight, the power of the shark was just too much in the end.

I know those scenes would have raised more questions.

So when is it appropriate for someone like Katie to see this kind of show? It's great for her to learn about nature, and she does know that animals eat other animals (especially when they studied dinosaurs) but to see it, in person, right now is a bit much.

I always loved it when they showed us films in school made by the National Geographic society, especially the ones in the ocean, since that is an odd and fascinating world all to its own. Of course, many fish are predators, and then there are sneaky creatures like sea anemones and Portuguese Man-o-Wars.

Of course, at Katie's age all of the cute, pretty fish that end up as fish food for the predators would be the ones she would be rooting for and it's hard to show her those things even though it's educational.

Then there are those cartoons that show creatures like bears hanging out with all kinds of other animals, and even having pets.

Miffy (a cute little bunny) is friend with a bear named Boris. Now wouldn't a bear normally like to have a rabbit for a snack? Perhaps.

But I don’t want to be a cruel parent and tell Katie that she can't watch Little Bear because it's unrealistic. But I think she knows that already, because she's seen animals at the zoo plenty of times and know they can't talk for real.

One day, she'll want to watch a wolf hunt a caribou and marvel at the struggle of life and death that goes on all around us, but I learned that at age 5, she's not ready for that.

But she and Kristin are growing so fast in front of my eyes - will I be ready for when they're ready?


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