Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How do I tell her Steve Irwin died?

I'm really bummed that Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter died. And I'm not sure how to break the news to Special K.

I have to admit that at first I wasn't a fan of the guy. And I certainly wasn't going to expose my children to him. I heard he wrestled with crocodiles. He sounded irresponsible and stupid. His show with the Wiggles called Wiggly Safari won me over. He seemed to have a genuine love and respect for all animals. I learned about his conservation work and his Australia Zoo. He carefully explained to the children about dangerous animals.

I watched a show in which he did wrestle a crocodile, but it was to save the crocodile. Somehow the crocodile had gotten trapped in a tiny drainage ditch and the only way to get it out was to wrap it around in chains and haul it out.

My first reaction on hearing the news was "A stingray? How could he get killed by a stingray?" Stingrays usually aren't that dangerous. In fact while I've never wrestled a crocodile, Special K and I have both petted stingrays at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Steve was swimming with a much larger and clearly more aggressive stingray than the ones in the aquarium. From the ABC story it sounds like a freak accident. And this is my dilemma. And this is my dilemma. My daughter is already afraid of bugs and other creatures that she deems scary. It's an arbitrary list. For example spiders are scary, but she loves reading and watching about lions and crocodiles and many other animals. Steve was her hero.

How can I explain to her that her hero got killed by a creature that she herself has petted? I will tell her that the barbs at the aquarium are clipped.

But sometimes people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time and they die. I don't know to explain that to her without making her really scared.

Edited to add: As I was writing this post on Silicon Valley Moms Blog, my daughter came and asked me to read it to her, so I broke the news. Her only question was "What do stingrays eat?" I think she's taking it better than I am.
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gconnor said...

I would try to be honest and direct. Some stingrays are deadly, and some will just give you a small sting that will turn red and then go away. In our part of the world they don't have those huge deadly stingrays. But if you love animals and want to spend time around them, you have to learn which ones are safe.

Steve was working around dangerous animals and trying to be as safe as possible, but you can never plan for all the possible risks. It was probably about as dangerous as driving fast in the car. You can be as safe as possible and still have an accident.

Most snakes, spiders, and bugs we find around this area are not dangerous, but there's a couple exceptions. Black Widow is one.

Jenny said...

We had the same discussion with my son. I felt Steve was the Marlin Perkins of his generation--cultivating in people a love and respect for wild animals. He did one better than Marlin in that I really *liked* Steve. His conversational tone and enthusiasm drew me in, and made me care about him and the animals.

Luckily, for me, his spirit and image will live on in re-runs. I feel most sorry for his wife and kids.

Jenny said...

Another comment about risk...

I had a boyfriend once who was a motocross champion, and generally into all things involving adrenaline and athletic skill. But, he drew the line at hang gliding. He'd researched it, and all the top hang gliders were dead, or quadrapelegics. His philosophy was, if a sport was so dangerous that even the top performers died regularily, there was too much inherent risk.

Smart guy.