There are some mothers that guard their children's innocence like the precious, fleeting treasure it is. And then there are mother's like me, that crush it.
While pondering the anatomy of her stuffed rabbit one day,three-year-old Livie asked me why bunnies had such long ears. I told her it was so they could hear really, really well.
A week later, when we were bike riding past a local field where we always spot wild rabbits, she asked me why bunnies need to hear so well.
Now, I'd like to pause this story for a moment to mention that children always ask hard questions without warning, and when you are in the middle of doing something distracting, like driving. So if you're not quick thinking, you can really paint yourself into a corner in conversation with your kids. Like the time four-year old Sophia -- from the back seat -- said that as soon as her baby sister was born I would have two belly buttons, because babies come out of mommies' belly button, and you must therefore get a new one every time you give birth. Thoughtlessly, I said, "Babies don't come out of belly buttons." "Where they do they come out then, Mommy?" Walked right into that one.
So, back to the rabbit's ears. I'm peddling a 50-pound beach cruiser with a 40-pound toddler strapped on the back down a busy street, so please picture all this taking place with me sweating, and shouting into a headwind. The dialogue isn't verbatim, but really, really close.
"Bunnies have big ears so they can hear if another animal is sneaking up on them, Livie."
"What kind of an animal?"
"I don't know, like a coyote."
"Why would a coyote sneak up on a bunny?"
"Because coyotes eat bunnies, honey."
I start to realize this is going in a bad direction, yet still I press on. "Well, I guess they like the way bunny meat tastes."
"But bunnies aren't meat! They're animals."
Still not backing down, I say, "Well, meat comes from animals."
A glance back at my daughter shows she is truly shocked and horrified. As it dawns on me what I have done, I watch her face and body slowly relax as a comforting idea occurs to her. "So you're saying, Mommy, that if a coyote found a dead bunny in the grass, he would eat it?"
"Um. Yes. Yes, that's what I'm saying." Forget that this whole thing started because of bunnies and their 'ability to hear approaching predators. I was willing to accept this untruth to spackel over the small cracks I had just created in my daughters innocence. I've always been pretty committed to answering the kids' questions truthfully. They know the real names for all their body parts, for example, which has really created some interesting scenes in public places. But I wasn't prepared for this particular revelation and it's potential heart-breaking results.
This all occurred about a month ago and Liv hadn't mentioned the meat-animal connection sense, until today, when she was eating white cheddar cheese puffs that were labeled "Bunny Tails" for Easter. She suddenly paused mid chew to ask, "Did they have to kill a lot of bunnies to get these tails?"
Through our suppressed giggles, we assured her that the "Bunny Tails" had absolutely nothing to do with the actual furry animal. Now we just have to figure out what to do tomorrow when Grandma serves her lamb.