September 23, 2002 - Monday
Harry's been watching his one Thomas the Tank Engine video a lot lately and we've sort of resigned ourselves that he's becoming more aware of the TV. In fact, his pre-bathtime requests to watch "Thomas" can be extremely helpful, especially if I'm out at a meeting and his mother has to put Jeremy and Harry to bed alone. It's the classic and potentially addictive TV-as-baby-sitter deal, but it's hard to argue with in those situations. Tonight, Harry again asked for Thomas, but only 15 minutes before his regular bathtime. That's not enough time for the 37 minutes of cartoon trains. Feeling particularly lazy myself and not really wanting to argue with Harry, I just turned on the television thinking I could find something wholesome on PBS or Nickelodeon that would fill the 15 minute void. Unfortunately, both of those stations were into evening programming more suited toward older kids and so I switched channels and found zebras and giraffes on Discovery.
I suppose I should have seen it coming in a show about African wildlife, but it was all so benign. The narrator was taking about how, lacking a surprise attack, the herds of zebras, water buffalos, and warthogs are very wary of predators and always able to keep just enough of a safe distance. And, it didn't seem like a show about seek attacks. But, then there was an old water buffalo and the narrator was saying something about him getting old or getting sick or weary and I wasn't paying close attention. Suddenly, the video cut to a lioness lying on the ground eating the half torn water buffalo.
In my lazy stupor, caught off guard, I didn't immediately know whether to change channels or not. My inclination was not, as Harry had already seen it and there's really no use hinding such curiosities. Harry got this concerned look that he gets in the scariest monents of the Thomas the Tank Engine video just before some potentially dire crash scene and slowly moved, as he does watching Thomas, off to the side of the room just a little farther from the TV, holding his mouth and not knowing quite whether to watch or not, but not being able to look away. Eventually he asked, "what's that." Again, I wasn't prepared to answer and offered a weak "he was too sick," presumably thinking I didn't want to explain that the lion had likely killed the buffalo and was now eating it. With Harry's concern still evident, I changed the channel, but it didn't last. Harry had seem something he felt he needed to understand better and demanded I change back.
His mother came down shortly after the scene, so Harry was off to the bath. When I came up for our bedtime talk, Harry was usually sedate and I worried that he had been traumatized by the scene. I asked twice whether he was thinking about something and he said "yes," but both times said it was some other random thing. His mother, however, told me that during the bathtime he had been talking confidentally and graphically about the "sick warthog" and how the lioness was eating it. With that he didn't seemed so traumatized, but I can't help but wonder how strong an impression it made, whether or not "trauma" is too strong.