In this new generation of helicopter parents raised in a culture aiming our youth toward their future of being "happy", we've loosened the reins on the privileges we allow our children. What used to be "playing a sport" has turned into a lifestyle which requires parents to essentially take up a part-time job working on the weekends and travelling to other states with the only goal to get ahead of the unfortunate game. What used to be a family photo once every few years has turned into elaborate photo shoots every few months with full sets, costume design, advertisement-worthy graphics, which intend on rivaling power house magazine spreads with budgets in the tens, or even hundreds, of thousands. I am guilty of over-doing it in many areas. I am guilty of still working out some of my childhood issues and, even worse, I'm guilty of imposing my own guilt in addition to any leftover guilt from my parents, my husband's parents, and our grandparents onto my children- even when it comes to hamsters.
A few weeks ago, Little Girl bopped into her booster seat, snapped the seatbelt, took in a deep breath, and launched into a well-prepared plea for a hamster. I clamped up immediately, trying to conceal my discomfort from her. My first thoughts- We already have a pet and she barely gets enough attention as it is; You want a rodent? Look outside, we live in the sticks. There are plenty of mice and who-knows-what to choose from; That's exactly what I need, another mouth to feed and bottom to clean. Gently, I tried to shut her down. "Baby, if we get another pet, Sugar will be heartbroken. Honey, if it ever got outside the hawks would snatch it up right away. Sweet heart, I know how much you love animals, but remember how hard it was to say good-bye to Princess Daphne and Prince Eric?"
Yes, we rescued a duckling last year later named Princess Daphne. A simple walk around a shopping area after a trip to the gym found us oohing and awing at a family of ducks in a fountain. All five little ducklings followed Mommy and Daddy Duck into the water. As we tried to get closer, the Mommy and Daddy hopped out and looked back for their ducklings. One by one they tried to hop out of the fountain, only the ledge surrounding was too steep. They couldn't get out. Their tiny wings were soon flinging themselves against the walls of the fountain feverishly and all the ducks were letting out distress calls. The girls looked up to me and, with tears pooling in their eyes, asked what was happening. I surely wasn't going to let their first interaction with these precious little ducklings end in death, therefore causing discomfort to my little angels. Absolutely not. They would only know a world that sparkles as long as I can possibly shield them. So I started untying my shoes, scrunching up my leggings, and assured them, "It's going to be ok girls. Mommy's going to save them. Don't you worry your pretty little heads!"
Within seconds, I was knee-deep in a public fountain, the centerpiece of an upscale dining and shopping area in town. I spent the next thirty minutes chasing and rescuing each duckling and finally placing them in the bushes we last saw Mommy and Daddy duck into and hide. As soon as their bitty beaks disappearing behind the leaves, I was so relieved to be done. Then, they started pouring back out and, quicker than I could herd them, they squeezed past me and waddled back into the water. WHAT. Again, the girls distressed, looking up at me; and me trying to figure out how far I was going to let this whole ridiculousness go. I stuck my hands on my hips and assured the girls that if the ducklings wanted to be in the water, then that's where they were supposed to be.
Of course, the next day at the gym, I let them talk me into going back to the fountain afterwards to check on the little ducks. I knew we might discover a grisly sight, but I hoped that nature had done its job and the ducklings had been carried off without leaving evidence. Low and behold, when we rounded the corner, we found one little duckling left in the fountain, alive. Exhausted and frantic, she didn't even fight me this time as I lifted her up and melted. "Girls, we're going to have to bring her back home and get her well again." I couldn't believe I said that either. So, we took our Princess Daphne shopping for supplies only to find out she was close to death and at least one companion was required to nurse her back to health. I bought one more. Enter: Prince Eric. I never thought two little ducklings could be so bossy.
|How was I supposed to say no to this??|
|Right after I changed their bed- briefly clean.|
They squawked at all hours, begging for chopped spinach, sloshed water and poop everywhere in their makeshift home, and left a permanent scar on my senses- ducklings have to be warmed with a heat lamp clamped to the side of their home...heat lamp + poop + moisture from spilled water = no thank you. Once they were too big to keep cooped up anymore, and since they would surely become dinner on our property, we released them into a plump population of ducks that live in the lake nearby.
|Too big for this nest.|
The girls bawled, the ducks squawked, and my husband scowled. He knew it would kill him to see the girls cry over the end of the ducks' stay in our home. He had, "I told you so," written all over his face.
|The tragic end.|
Now that we've recovered from the ducklings, Little Girl wants a hamster. Baby Girl agrees. After a few days of reasoning with them, my husband consulted with the guys at the station- known to me as my "brother-wife consultants". Following a quick discussion, he wanted me to steer them towards a guinea pig instead because some hamsters are known to bite. I agreed, and soon the girls did as well. The condition we gave them is, yes, we will get you a guinea pig (mostly because we were never allowed to have pets like that when we were kids) as long as you clean up all your toys and pick up all your clothes every day. If they could keep up some good behaviors, we would take them on Valentine's Day to pick one out. The good news/bad news? They couldn't hold up their end of the bargain. And, we convinced them, we don't have anyone to watch the new pet if/when we go on vacation. Little Girl was sold. She loves hotels. Baby Girl was easily swayed.
I was so relieved. Over time I had actually convinced myself the girls absolutely deserved another pet and it really wasn't that big of a deal. How silly were our parents not to give into such a whim when we were kids? Man. They really were tough. I scoffed at my parents like I used to guffaw at others who stop reproducing (by choice) at two children. "Ha," I used to tell my husband when, at the time, I wanted three or four children, "Sissies." Like any other learning experience, it's too easy to philosophize. Only when I actually have to perform will my true limits reveal themselves. I'm just grateful I learned my limits before we brought a hamster or a guinea pig home. And hopefully I paid my dues with the ducklings and we can avoid taking in more creatures for a while.