It is funny when something happens that makes you realize you have changed.
About 2 weeks ago, I went to bat for the kids and convinced Rick that our children would grow up to be weird adults if they didn’t have a warm-blooded pet to love and nurture. We go through cycles of fish, as you have read in Little Lou, and recently purchased some Sea Monkeys in an attempt to quench their thirst. The Sea Monkeys surprisingly hatched just like they were supposed to after adding Pouch 1 and Pouch 2 to tap water and waiting 4-5 days. The time required for the hatching to occur increased the anticipation of their arrival. After watching them for a few days we discovered that they are almost as exciting to watch as dust particles floating in the sunlight. Today however, Harrison noticed one of them giving another one a piggyback ride and explained that they must be good friends. Sophia chimed in quickly but got cut off short by her mother who wasn’t in the mood to give a sex-ed talk induced by Sea Monkey behavior. So after Rick explained to me that he was against the idea and would have nothing to do with them, he reluctantly agreed.
Last week we made it a snow day activity to buy some hamsters at the local pet store. It was an awesome day. 1 point for Mom! The three kids and I drove over to my Mom and Dad’s house in questionable road conditions with a great need to treat our cabin fever and to pick up my and my brother’s old hamster cages. Rick and I had decided that we were going to make the kids use their own money to buy the hamsters and all their supplies in addition to caring for and cleaning up after them. The total came to $30 each. Sophia offered to clean up the playroom if I knocked her payback price down to $20. I agreed. I offered Harrison some chores to lessen his cost as well but he replied, “No, I’m just going to play on the iPad and pay you”. I knew this would be his answer before I asked anyway, I’ve heard him offer his sister a dollar to make is bed. I wont be surprised at all one day if he somehow figures out how to pay his friend to cut his grass and remove his snow.
We adopted Mickey and Daisy on a Wednesday. On Friday morning, Rick calmly yelled for me and Harrison to come to Harrison’s room where he was waiting on us. We walked quickly down the hall together. Harrison looked up at me with an anxious look on his face. I could have offered him a look of reassurance but I’m pretty sure my face yelled “get in the game son”! We walked in the room and Mickey, who was tired from wheel running all night, was luckily curled up sleeping with his hamster cage door wide open. I repeat wide open!
As a little girl I grew up loving anything my mom would let me keep in a shoe-box. In addition to a baby bird, a mole, and turtles, I regularly had hamsters. One of them, Heidi, was my favorite. She loved me. I really know she did. I could put my hand inside her cage and she would run right up my arm and sit on my shoulder. In the summer, I’d tie a piece of yarn around her neck and take her for “walks” in the yard, pausing to let her eat clover. I used to take one of my dads perfectly ironed handkerchiefs and tie it to the underside of my Rose Thunder bike’s banana seat. I’d drive Heidi all over the neighborhood in her little hammock over potholes and mole burrowed grass. As an adult, I now know that when she spread her arms and strangely human like fingers out wide as I was trying to put her in her hammock, that this wasn’t a sign of overwhelming excitement but more of an attempt to save her already rodently short life span of two years.
(Don’t worry. One day I will blog about all my bad hair-dos growing up. Sure to be a favorite of many!)
A couple days later than we should have, I showed the kids the cage cleaning technique that I expected them to follow for the next time and every time after that when they did it on their OWN. They were to…
1. Carry their cage into the kids’ bathroom and place their hamsters, one at a time, in the bathtub where they couldn’t get away. (I stressed the importance of only one hamster in the bathtub at a time due to the chance that Mickey and Daisy might become good friends just like the Sea Monkeys, who may be suffering from an over population situation soon due to their “friendliness”.
They were to then…
2. Simply dump the old bedding into a kitchen size trash bag,
3. Wipe the cage out with a paper towel and non-toxic cleaner, then
4. Return the hamster to the cage and lastly to their room.
About a week later, which was also a few days later than recommended, I told the kids to go clean their hamster cages as I previously instructed. I was determined not to get involved, as Rick and I had planned, in order to build our children’s responsibility. I won’t say that I didn’t listen intently however, and imagined what was going on. I could hear that Sophia’s hamster, Daisy, was put in the bathtub first. Within about 10 minutes, I heard Sophia carrying Daisy upstairs to her room. I waited for a while but never heard her come back down to help Harrison like she had promised me she would do if I let her buy a hamster. I waited for a few minutes, listening to Harrison and his 3-year-old assistant, before I couldn’t take it any longer and went in to check on their progress.
Haley was in the bathtub with Mickey, who was impatiently waiting on his room and check in time to arrive. He would climb up the side of the porcelain bathtub, trying to escape, but would then slide back down the wall to Haley who would proclaim, “yuk Mommy, he yikes me.” Harrison had apparently missed the tall kitchen size trash bag when dumping the dirty cage. I know he was trying hard to sweep it up with a dust broom and pan but he was rolling on the floor and sliding on his knees, like his name had been drawn to “Dash for Cash”.
“SOOOOO….PPPHHHHHIIIII….AAAA” I yelled.
When she arrived I said, “just what is going on in here?”, insinuating her absence in the bathroom and thus the complete disarray. In that moment I saw that Harrison was no longer using a dust broom and pan to clean up but was using a pincer grip to pick up what I was pretending to be grains of black rice in order to maintain my sanity.
“What mom?” “Haley is helping him”, said with a head bob and an understood duuuhhhh.
So I ended up helping… but the entire time swearing that I would never help again or I would take their hamsters back to the pet store. Yes, it did get ugly for a few minutes. If you would have asked me at that moment, I would have agreed with Rick. However, knowing that he reads my blog, I didn’t admit it and I still won’t. I think the hamsters were a fair (+) to good (-) idea.
I supervised Harrison’s hand washing to a very slow, mournful happy birthday tempo knowing he likes to sing quickly and move on to the cake or whatever activity might be more exciting than proper hygiene. I then handed him a Clorox wipe, to remove any “rice” that the soap had missed. I purposely didn’t read the “Safe Usage” instructions on the Clorox wipes because I did not want to read “not safe to use on children”.
I occasionally look at Mickey or Daisy and begin to get a slight warm and fuzzy feeling, but most of the time I wonder why I invited 2 rodents to live with us and basically take over one of our bathrooms. I haven’t Google’d, “do hamsters carry diseases?”, I know it won’t help me desensitize to their presence. I wish I didn’t see their mess, or smell the stink that peaks at about day 8, or thought about germs…..but I do. I’ve changed. I tolerate them because I remember what I learned from Heidi and other animals I loved.
I think love needs to be taught just like manners, through words and by example. Children need to hear and see it, over and over again, for it to become a natural part of their everyday thoughts and actions. So while Mickey and Daisy will help our kids learn about financial responsibility as well as being independent with chores, I hope they will be a tool for them to learn about LOVE, COMPASSION, and to be a GIVER to those who need them.
While I know that time and life changes me, hopefully most of the time for the better, I find comfort in knowing that my God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever”. (Hebrews 13:8) I pray that I can be an example to my children to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) even if they never learn to chew with their mouths closed.