I don’t know about you, but we are sleeping in later and later each day of this pandemic. Some people may be losing sleep right now, but we are not them. Bedtime has become a bit of a slippery slope, since 8yr old Manchild and 10yr old Girlchild have absolutely no where they need to be, so most nights the kids are in bed about a half hour later than usual. It’s not a huge deal, but what I don’t understand is how they are sleeping two hours later in the mornings to make up for it? Rest assured, there are no dark circles under the Schenanigans family’s eyes!
After reading in bed til midnight myself, it felt like the dead of night when I heard a loud crash and thump, like falling toys or plastic on a carpet. I bolt from my bed and launched myself into Manchild’ s room, where I find Jax the cat with Sally the mouse in his mouth. This was Manchild’s pet white mouse, and she was dead. I looked at her cage and it was still locked up tight. I look around the room and see nothing that would make a huge crashing sound (a few scattered toys, but that’s our norm around here). I have NO IDEA how that stinkin’ cat got this mouse out of her cage.
Manchild had crawled into bed with Captain Schenanigans and myself at some point, so when I gently relayed the events to him in his sleepy state as I climbed back in bed, he registered no emotion. When I reminded him what transpired this morning as we sat on the couch waiting to watch church, he remembered but didn’t react much. But as I lay with him at bedtime tonight, the sadness came. It always does at night. He told me how he had just gotten used to Sally’s squeaking (she was ridiculously loud hosting raves in her cage all night for being a single tiny mouse), and that he wouldn’t be able to sleep without her sounds now. It was pitiful. Then, on my way out of his room, I was nearly eighteen inches from freedom, he dropped the pet bomb. It never fails.
“I want another pet”. He asked, sadly, yanking on my irrational heart strings. “I want something else to be responsible for.”
Thankfully, my sarcastic side stepped up and kicked the heart strings in the throat. Not gonna die on this hill of empathy, we’ve got 16 other animals to care for on this property.
“You mean like a rabbit?’ I say dryly. We all know the fight that ensues daily to get Manchild to put his shoes on, go outside before the bus comes, and feed his bunny, Hops. Every. Single. Day. Why on earth would this kid need more pets?
“No, ” Manchild begins, but I cut him off before he could get farther.
“How about a chicken?” I offer a bit too far on the snide side. We are up to our armpits in chickens, WHICH I LOVE, but I can’t replace some of my lower producing breeds with better egg layers because half my flock belongs to my children. They take them to the fair, and love earning ribbons and prizes (Manchild cleaned house with a Grand Champion layer last summer). But do I have to twist their tiny arms behind their backs to get them to gather eggs, or heaven forbid, throw feed out for them (not literally of course, we have cameras everywhere on this property)!? Chickens, to my children, are pets of convenience. Because I love being out there messing with them every day, the kids rarely have to pay attention to their birds (although that has changed now that they are home all day due to Corona, and have waaaaaaay more time for chores like gathering eggs – WOOT)!
“No”, Manchild begins, and I head him off again because we are rapidly losing animal categories, and I don’t need anyone setting their hopes on a terrible plan at 9pm.
“No more rodents! We aren’t getting a hamster”, I declare. Something we’d discussed at one point in the past once we saw how non-bitey they were and just all around better BFF’s than mice.
“I want a fish” Manchild declared.
“A fish? Only if it’s in a bowl and you feed it and you change the water!” I lay the guidelines hard and fast because deal breakers are best found quickly.
“And AFTER all this (Corona) is over!” Captain Schenanigans chimed in from another room in stealth mode. He has learned to monitor my animal conversations with the children as this dramatically cuts down on the volume and variety of furry souls we drag home without his knowledge. I’m still trying to get him to agree to a nice, silent alpaca. They max out at 5 feet tall and we’ve got a 6 foot privacy fence, boo yeah! Hellllooooo suburban alpaca homesteading!
It was agreed. We’d get Manchild a fish. It’s ALWAYS the first night after a pet death that this type of bartering occurs. I simply can’t say no to a sad child who wants to love an animal. I can not. But I can put up boundaries on acceptable species, and it’s not my fault if you don’t like your options. That only took ten years of parenting to achieve.
I pictured a nice little blue Beta fish for Manchild, and am taking bets on how long it will be with us. Sally the mouse made it a year, and considering Jax doesn’t like seafood, this fish has a real shot! This time I really, really, really won’t feed this pet for my son. I promise to make him care for it alone and feel the weight of this much desired responsibility. Granted, Sally’s cage was stupidly hard to clean, and when your pet buries it’s food you have no idea when it needs more. But those days of Mrs. Nice Mom are over. This is the Fish of Tough Love! The Responsibility Enforcement Fish! The Beta of Life Goals!
So yes, I will pay another $10 for another shot at my son learning responsibility. Like a carnival game where you’re pretty sure the first 4 tries are a waste of money, but by the 5th time you hit your groove and win the stuffed banana with a slow leak out the back where the seams don’t quite meet. I want him to win the prize of a tiny, fish sized burden on his carefree, unfocused little shoulders. It’s needs are tiny enough for his little hands to meet. It’s environment doesn’t change with the seasons, demand heated water bottles, or require extension cords. No nail trimming, vet trips, or fear of being bitten. This is actually, quite a perfect pet for an independent experience. It you can care for it barefoot and shirtless, then Manchild will have no problems!
Of course, there is the little matter of timing. Cause now I’m pretty excited about a new fish in the house, and Petco has curbside pick up, and I’m not really sure what waiting for the Corona virus to pass has to do with marine life anyway. I mean, if anything, now is the time for new indoor entertainment, right Captain Schenanigans?! 😉