“Please mommy, please, please, please, please… I’ll take care of him and feed him every day. Please mommy, he’s just so cute.” My 8 year old daughter begged in the rodent aisle of PetSmart. She wanted a hamster but the lady working in the rodent section said that all of the hamsters that they had were “kinda mean”. She also said that mice and rats made good pets, which I already knew because at the age of 10, I was the queen of rats.
I had several pet rats. All named after flowers, of course- Daffodil, Poppy, Lily… I preferred them to most human friends, in fact. Some things never change.
So like any good wife, I called my husband and told him we were getting a pet mouse. His last words on that call were “please do not bring home a mouse.” But he wasn’t the one staring into desperate blue eyes so we picked out the cage, water bottle, bedding, house, food and whatever other bullshit she saw fit for her new friend. Would’ve been an excellent start on a college savings account but… whatever.
“His name is Samuel.” She was quite proud and for the first 2 weeks, he was the center of her world. So much so that her best friend even got a mouse and we attempted a mouse playdate in the bathtub upstairs but the little bastards didn’t play nice, so there went that fancy notion.
Then I had to remind her more and more, “did you feed him? Play with him? Water? Jesus, his cage stinks, you need to change it.”
Before too long Samuel was a far gone notion in her mind, he took a back seat to Roblox and other brain-numbing games on her tablet and hours long play sessions with her LOL dolls and her Littlest Petshop collection. Poor Samuel.
Then I started threatening to get rid of Samuel because she wasn’t doing her part and I certainly didn’t sign up for this shit- the feeding, watering, cage cleaning and care of a rodent… only, I did. And she did too.
Once after I threatened she said “can we just get rid of him, mom?”
What the fuck!? This little cute mouse that you begged for in the pet store, giving me a guilty complex about? NOW you don’t even want him? Like some trash that you just throw away?
I had to rethink my process here, because she totally called me on my bullshit threat.
“No, we cannot get rid of Samuel. You made a commitment to take care of him and that’s what you’re going to do.” Reminding her that he is a living animal who deserves love and attention, just like her. It’s a lesson about responsibility that I almost missed with my empty threats.
So now we’ve moved ole’ Sammy downstairs so that he gets more attention and care. So that she has to see him every single day and remember that he’s there and needs love. And so that I don’t forget that the little shit exists and that I can be the backup if she slips up… because she is only 8 and that happens.
I wrote before about natural consequence parenting, which is awesome… but not when there’s a living thing that could lose it’s life or get sick as a result. That’s where I draw the line. No animals should have to suffer here so we’re using the mouse situation as a life lesson for when she’s older and wants a kitten or puppy or as an adult and wants a baby and the “new” wears off (because it totally does!).
And mice are a good start because their life expectancy is about 2 years. It’s a good thing we didn’t start with a tortoise or a parrot or some shit that would outlive me.
So no… you can’t get rid of your mouse. He’s your (our) responsibility. Deal with it, kid.