Tigers eating goats
Our book group here in D.C. read "Life of Pi" this month. This is a fantastic book, and one that generated some good, exciting, healthy discussion. I recommend it highly. Some thoughts were brought up that I would like to share here, as I'm interested in what even more people think. The main character of the book is Pi, a boy whose father is a zookeeper. The first part of the book Pi spends most of the time introducing us to his life, including his life among the animals. He describes one scene where his father endeavors to teach him a lesson about these animals that he is so familiar with. Pi's father puts a live goat in with a tiger that has not been fed for 3 days. You can imagine what short work the tiger made of that goat, and everything was witnessed by the small boy, Piscine, and his brother. Pi's mother was outraged, saying that surely Pi's father had scarred his children for life. But Pi's father wanted his children to learn that tigers were not play things, pets, toys to be patted and hugged. They were wild animals, and dangerous. The lesson stuck. So we were discussing this scene in our book group, and the question came up about whether or not the father's lesson was too harsh, if there wasn't a better way to teach this life saving lesson. We discussed it, and then we started talking about lessons we need to teach our children, the hard ones they need to learn, and how we do it. Do we need to make it as graphic as a tiger eating a goat? Are there other, more subtle ways to teach our kids the important lessons of life, or is raw experience the only way? I know that for me, I tend to go towards the raw experience side of things. I have let Jacob burn himself when he was young, after telling him it was hot and not to touch the stove. He hasn't burned himself since. I have let him go and try things out physically, thinking that for sure he would be defeated by something like the diving board at age 2, only to discover that my leniency did not curtail him, but rather let him succeed at something I thought for sure he would fail at. (I know that's bad grammar, a dangling something or other, but I'm trying to write this while keeping an ear out for 2 3 year olds, so cut me some slack, ok?) I think we can verbally warn our kids about lots of different things, but actual visual or tactile experience is what will drive the lesson home. But I could be underestimating how my child learns. And maybe subtle can be just as effective, too. Whatever the answer, I'm just glad that I don't have to teach him using a live goat and a hungry tiger. Although, come to think of it, Jacob would probably think that would be pretty cool! It would most likely be his mother fainting, puking all the way, while he says, "Lookit, Mommy! That's a mean tiger. Grr!"