Isn’t there a Russian word for “liability?”

Are American parents too protective? Or is one particular Russian sort of cultural coming-of-a-not-very-old-age ritual absolutely crazy?

If you didn’t read Andrew Kramer’s “Step Right Up, Kids, the Predator Is Ready” in yesterday’s New York Times, you might want to. To provoke your interest, here are the first two paragraphs [and if you link to this story, you’ll see a really scary picture of (1) a spectacularly beautiful Siberian tiger named Chanel and (2) a very little child, sitting right next to (1)]:

MOSCOW — The father knelt beside his hesitant daughter and gently encouraged her to set aside her fears and take a seat.

“Don’t worry,” he whispered in her ear, during a family outing to the circus, “it’s just a little kitty.”

But in fact, lounging on a low pedestal in the foyer of the Nikulin Circus in Moscow, and lazily twitching a long, tawny tail, the tigress named Chanel was no kitty at all.

So you do want to read the whole story, which — thankfully! — ends thusly:

Meanwhile, Anya, a 6-year-old with a white bow in her hair, stood at the edge of Chanel’s small roped enclosure. She looked at the tiger, then looked up at her mother and said, “I’m afraid.”

The mother, Yulia M. Baranova, decided not to take the picture.

“We looked at her teeth, we looked at her claws,” she said, and moved on to the stands offering cotton candy, vampire teeth and yo-yos.

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