One of the trickier parts of parenting is deciding how and when you’ll explain to your children that the world isn’t always pretty or fair.
Promising that shot won’t hurt will make you a liar in thirty more seconds and pretending everyone is kind will backfire the first time some playground kid makes your baby cry.
Still, we live so few years in the just Disneyan universe that it’s painful to watch the colors dim. Like that time I whisked my girls toward an ice cream shop at the zoo the moment a peacock flew sideways into the wolf cage, or my avoidance of serving chicken after we raised a couple of baby hens.
I just didn’t want it all to click into place one night at dinner. Especially after 5-year-old Brontë started asking me if octopi had feelings, since our pet kitties obviously did.
So when my husband and I found a dead bird in the yard, we quietly disposed of it. And then a mole. Then another bird.
Until finally, Brontë and I left the house one morning to see a dead bird laying on the doorstep…
Brontë (upon seeing the bird): AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Her beloved cat Frodo proudly sits next to it.
Me: Looks like Frodo got that bird.
Brontë (horrified): Oh NO, Frodo! Bad! That’s SO sad.
Me: Well… see, I think he’s giving it to you. As a present.
Me (taking her hand): Well Brontë, cats eat birds. They catch them and eat them and they don’t understand how we don’t eat birds like that. Frodo probably noticed he hasn’t seen you eat a fresh bird in really long time, so he spent all day catching it for you to have a nice dinner. And he was probably sitting here waiting to see how excited you’d be about his gift.
Brontë: Aww, Frodo loves me.
Me: Yeah, he thought it would be a great present for you and that you’d really like it.
Brontë (speaking slowly to the cat): Aww Frodo, THANK YOU! That bird looks SUPER DELICIOUS. I’m gonna eat that later, kay?
(Whispering to me): Okay mom, hurry up. Let’s get out of here….
I think she handled it pretty well.