“Sharks are more scared of us than we are of them.”
“What?” I stuck my head out of the bathroom where I was busy getting ready for the day. I saw all three of my children lounging on the bed as if it were a tropical island. Lydia in sunglasses. Gideon sipping from an invisible coconut. “What are you talking about? Put your clothes on so we can go.”
Clara hopped off the island and started looking for her dress somewhere among the waves of bed sheets. “It’s true!” she said, “I learned that on Wild Kratts!”
“Yes, yes. I’m sure it’s true. But that doesn’t mean that sharks are not dangerous.” I had no idea why we were even having this conversation. We would have to travel a long ways to find a shark. This was nonsense. But I have learned through experience that as long as I’m talking about something that is interesting to the children, they will refrain from talking about something completely confusing with me. So, I tried to find an angle. “Okay…” I continued. “Okay. So, when something is frightened it has two possible reactions to chose from. They will either attack the thing that is scaring them, or they will quickly bolt in the opposite direction. It’s called the Fight or Flight response.”
They were listening too closely; I had to pull one or two of them off the bed and toss them clothes to put on. “If you scare a rabbit, what will it do?”
Clara thought for a moment. “Run?”
“Yes. We would be surprised if we snuck up on a rabbit and it decided to attack us, because rabbits are made to run away from things. It’s what they are best at. Well, how about a moose?” They were all three nodding. “A moose is a lot more unpredictable isn’t it? It might run away if you startle it, but if it happens to have a baby nearby and doesn’t feel like it can get away, it might attack you, and that would be very bad. But of course a bear would be worse! A bear would almost definitely attack you sooner than it would run away, because a bear is designed to be big and strong and is used to overpowering things that are smaller than it is. So, the larger and more confident the animal is, the more likely it is to fight when it is scared. That is why you never ever ever want to surprise a bear while you are in the woods. You make loud noises and walk slowly so it can hear you coming. Well, you can picture a shark as a sort of bear that swims in the water. A scared shark is still a very dangerous shark.”
They seemed to understand, although the conversation had distracted Clara and she was now lost somewhere inside of her dress and was struggling to find the exit holes. Lydia lifted her arms in the air and I slipped her dress down over her while Clara toppled over sideways and tried to push her head down one of her sleeves.
“Lydia,” the little girl smiled up at me sweetly and brushed wispy yellow hair out of her eyes. “What would you do if Daddy was hiding in a closet and jumped out suddenly and scared you. Would you try to fight, or would you run away?”
She laughed and hopped in a circle, “I would kill it!” She announced without hesitation.
I wasn’t sure if I was more surprised by her answer, or how quickly she came to it. “Wait, what?” She continued to jump in circles. “Lydia, you’d kill it or me? That’s not very nice.”
But she seemed to no longer be listening. “Yes! I would go downstairs…” certainly sounds like running away “and get Daddy’s gun that he lets me use…” No such thing. I don’t even keep a gun in the house. “And then I would come back up and shoot it!” I’m hoping she was confusing the thing that jumped out of the closet as a moose or a bear.
“Yes!” Clara said from across the room. “I’d help her do it!”
I looked over at Clara, “Clara your dress is on backwards.” Then I looked back at Lydia who was still hopping in circles chanting “Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!” Clara disappeared into her dress and popped back out giggling and joining in with her sister’s chant.
“Okay okay okay. Stop. This is getting too weird. Everyone just go downstairs and get your shoes on so we can get in the car.”
The girls crashed into each other on their way out the door and then rolled down the stairs to the living room. I grabbed the arm of their little brother as he tried to follow. “I think it would be safer if you stayed in here with me for a while. Maybe several years in fact.” I looked out the doorway and down the stairs to the living room where the girls were now wrestling with each other for control of an empty plastic bag. “It seems sharks are not as far away as I thought they were. I’m afraid these waters are quite infested with them.”