My poor son. There he sat at the front of the library class, the only kid not raising his hand in response to the question, “Do you have a pet at home?” We were attending one of those wild animal classes that are sometimes done at birthday parties, where kids get to learn about animal facts and pet some exotic animals, like chinchillas and baby alligators.
Our kids have endlessly begged for a pet and we have yet to give in. So, my sad son sat with his hands in his lap while all the other kids raised theirs, to eagerly tell about their dogs and hamsters.
Yesterday—I promise I am not making this up—my son resorted to playing with the ants in our kitchen. I overheard him ask, “Daddy, do ants eat peaches?” He wanted to find the perfect food to offer them. He actually built a slide out of his toy blocks, so these new “pets” would have something to play on.
Either we are really pathetic for not letting our kids have a pet, or we are forcing them to reach new heights in creativity to come up with very inventive ideas for “pets.”
The problem is that some days, I still feel like it takes heroic effort to keep my own kids alive, let alone worry about tending to an animal. I also like the idea of being as mobile as a family with four young(ish) kids can be, and not having to worry about finding a sitter for our pet. We also have several family members who are very allergic.
See all these good reasons? You’re on my side, right?
When my oldest daughter asked for a dog once, we told her that maybe she can get one when she’s grown up and has her own house. Her response was, “I need one now because sometimes when you grow up you don’t like dogs anymore.” (Example given: her own parents.)
To further add to the misery of my kids, when they ask us to tell stories from our childhood, more often than not, these stories include pets that we had.
In my defense, we do try to get animals in and out of our house for “educational purposes.” We have purchased caterpillar kits several times to observe metamorphosis. That has been really awesome. What is even more awesome, is that we get to release the butterflies and bid them farewell after a time. “Bye, bye butterflies! Nice knowing you!”
There was one time, however, when one of the butterflies hatched and had a deformed wing. We kept her in our kitchen for an extra two weeks after we had released all her friends. I kept waiting for her to die. I kept thinking, “Butterflies don’t live all that long, right?”
Well, the little rascal kept on living and living. Can you believe it? After her two extra “grace weeks” were up, I told my kids that we needed to release this dear butterfly and wish her the best, and let nature take its course, even though she would likely be bird food within a few hours. We lovingly placed her under a flower bush with an orange slice nearby.
We have also taken part in a Chick Foster Care program through our library. On two separate occasions we have brought baby chicks into our house and kept them for a series of weeks, to track their development. The kids have enjoyed keeping journals to note how the chicks have grown and changed, and taking pictures of the chicks. I have so many memories of all the neighbor kids crowding into our house to play with the chicks. They were held more often than they were left in their box. Frankly, I’m surprised the chicks survived the program. But, they did. And much fun was had by all involved (except, maybe the chicks).
So, I’m not completely mean. I do allow temporary animals in our home, as long as there is a clear departure date outlined in the arrangement.
Maybe we will cave some day and let our kids have “real” pets. If we do, I’m sure I will blog about it.
For now, I need to stop writing, because I need to go slice up some peaches for my son to feed the ants!
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; second image by Amy Koons.