Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nature. On my TV!

After work last night, I was exhausted. Exhaustion usually leads me to falling down face-first on my bed but only after I've turned on the television to babysit my 7-year-old daughter. Instead of the same old Spongebob Squarepants cartoon that I've seen 17 times, I made her watch the Travel Channel. Alaska's Arctic Wildlife, to be exact. It was the kind of hour-long show from 1987 that a former substitute teacher in my 6th grade science class would have used to justify turning off the lights and allowing us to fall asleep if it was the only way to shut us up.

Don't get me wrong. I love this stuff! My stomach turns a little bit when I'm bombarded with human blood and guts from Trauma: Life in the ER, but animals hunting other animals has never bothered me. A lion's claws ripping through the flesh of a panicked zebra that knows it isn't nearly fast enough to escape but keeps running with eyes-wide-open in terror just seconds before its painful and ghastly death...aaaah, nope - it doesn't bother me. Never has, never will. Why? Because it is the way it is. It's what they do, these animals. It's the only thing they can do.

My daughter also loves this stuff. Elle's been watching these nature and travel shows with me for quite some time. She knows all too well that a polar bear will shred a cute little seal cub to pieces or that a crocodile will hide below the water line just to pull a surprise-attack on some poor, thirsty gazelle. So allowing her to watch an arctic fox dig for and catch a lemming on Alaska's North Slope is not a big deal. There were some intense moments, such as when the polar bear began dragging the body of a seal onto the ice and leaving a trail of blood to mark the path, but I asked her if she wanted me to change the channel.

She said, "Nope, it's okay. It's just nature, Mom."

But later on in the show, nature started to confuse her. We watched a group of natives set up their hunting grounds on an ice flow as they plotted the best way to spear and kill a kind of migratory whale (I can't remember the name of the tribe or the whale) and this made Elle very concerned. The whale came into view and the natives deftly hopped into their handmade boat and paddled quietly and closer to the whale with huge, long spears at the ready. She didn't like this one bit.

"Are they gonna kill the whale?"

Well, yeah. I explained to her that it is their livelihood, that their survival depends on those very animals. The true natives of Alaska (or the Arctic, in general) don't just kill whales for fun, it's not a sport to them. It's their survival. It is the way it is. It's the only thing they can do. So I asked her, again, if she wanted me to change the channel.

"Wait, so they don't have a grocery store there?"


"Okay, I see now. No, you don't have to change the channel."

Simple as that.


Chris said...

Elle's a pretty bright kid. Takes after her mother I guess:)

Dena said...

Thanks, Chris. This whole "single mother" guilt thing is quickly disappearing the more I realize just how fantastic my kid is becoming. It should be no surprise that I just spent the afternoon at the zoo with her. She has a thing for komodo dragons and river otters.