My (almost) 6-year old son is going through quite a phase. He seems to be struggling to understand the natural food chain and come to terms with the “Circle of Life“. He is fascinated by the Animal Kingdom in general, from the bugs in our backyard to the lemurs of Madagascar and great white sharks.
Lately, almost every evening he wants to spend some time researching his ‘animal-of-the-day’ and always asks the same question, “Mom, do [Fill-in-the-Blank] have predators?”
Last week, he brought home a library book about armadillos. Of course, after reading the story, we spent some quality time on the Internet researching their predators (bobcats, coyotes, bears, and the like). We learned how these creatures can curl up under their shell-like skin to protect themselves.
Our research sessions follow the same routine each night. We learn about whether said animal has predators, and then we look up the predators’ predators. We repeat this exercise until we reach the “Apex Predator” at the top of the food chain. Usually this means, lions, wolves, sharks or people.
The notion of people as predators really bothers my son. He is puzzled by the fact that people hunt animals (though he has no problem inhaling his cheeseburger). When he learns that the hunted animal is an endangered species, he is even more puzzled and upset. He just doesn’t get it.
I find myself trying to reassure him. I try to sound convincing when I tell him that people usually only hunt animals for food, and have been since the beginning of time. In some cases, I feel the need to defend past generations of hunters and whalers who “didn’t know any better.” More often though, our conversation reaches a point where I can do nothing by confess that I don’t know why some people still hunt whales and seals. I sigh as I attempt to shoulder the blame, or shame, for the world-wide population of grownups.
He recently announced that we should get him an iPhone for his birthday like mine so that he can “Google” predators himself. (I’m not kidding!). I think we’ll just get him a subscription to National Geographic Kids, though.