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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 my 4 year-old daughter. 

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, my daughter 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.  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.

As I was writing this post, 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.

Thida writes at Water Owl's Movements.

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