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REAL-LIFE MUMS / Jun ‘2017

The predicament of pets and kids

REAL-LIFE MUMS / JUN ‘2017

The predicament of pets and kids

Do you ever see yourself in your kids? This mum loved stray animals when she was younger, and now her own son can’t help but follow in her footsteps.

Words ARI CHÁVEZ

There are children who love animals, and wish for nothing more than a lion on the bookcase and a crocodile under the bed, and there are those who run screaming at the sight of a dog.

It goes without saying that I have the first kind of child. In very many spades.

The other day, he picked up a feather and ate it – I know – and then told me he was now able to grow his own feathers and turn into a bird. He would soon fly far away from me, he confided. Far, far away. Despite my preoccupation with possible feather-eating-diseases that the Child was no doubt incubating then and there, I was fascinated.

“What colour are your feathers?” I asked, wondering if he would choose to be a brightly coloured parrot, or perhaps a peacock.

“Grey!” the Child said, eyes sparkling.

Ahem. A practical choice, grey. It seemed out of character. The child would, if he could, festoon our house with dinosaurs and cows and pigs and penguins. Tigers in the garage. Otters on the roof. That sort of thing.

But most of all, the Child wants that most mundane of animals. A cat. Last year he brought home a letter from school, a letter to Santa, in fact, which he’d deigned to write for his teacher, whom he loves fiercely and who has a rather enviable way with him.

In sloping letters he asked for a cat like Slinky Malinki, no less, who would sleep on his bed, play hide and seek with him, and whom he would, unceremoniously, call Kitty. Obviously, this was terrible news. When I was young and stupid, I brought home a kitten and insisted on a dog, whom my parents had to look after when I went travelling. When I was older, and should have known better, I turned up with a ridiculous Labrador puppy, who was as skittish as a colt and as destructive as a hurricane. My own mother found me a great trial in this regard, clearly not wanting anything else to look after other than the four children she already had who were, just quietly, a Packet of Headaches for many, many years.

 

“NOT A GODDAMN HOPE IN HELL!” he bellowed. “ARE YOU CRAZY??!! WE ALREADY HAVE TO EMPLOY A NANNY FOR THE DOG!!!”

I have, of course, become my mother. Once a collector of strays and lost things, I now DO NOT WANT anything else that requires my time, care, attention, money or organisational skills. I do not want to pick up more poop. I do not want to be woken at un-Godly hours for food, cuddles, a heater, a blanket or just because. Nope, I do not.

I stared at the letter, the longing in it. My heart remained stone but maybe not stone enough. I called my husband, and put it to him. At this point, I should mention that the crazy Labrador puppy I bought is still with us, but she falls apart if left alone for more than an hour, so we have had to hire a Doggy Nanny for her for when we are at work.

“NOT A GODDAMN HOPE IN HELL!” he bellowed. “ARE YOU CRAZY??!! WE ALREADY HAVE TO EMPLOY A NANNY FOR THE DOG!!!”

Right then. Quite. Thank God one of us is being sensible.

I stared at the Child, all spider legs and innocence.

“Did you write this beautiful letter to Santa?”  I asked, heart sinking.

“Yes,” he said. “I want Santa to bring me a cat like Slinky Malinki. He will sleep on my bed.”

“Hmmm,” I said.

“I also want a goldfish,” said the Child, shamelessly. “The goldfish will sit on my bookcase and watch me while I sleep.”

“That isn’t in your letter,” I said, worriedly.

“I also want a rabbit,” said the Child, eyeballing me. “I will play with my rabbit outside.”

I stared at the Child, and saw myself. This is a Bad Thing.

“I think,” I said, “that Santa may have run out of animals this year. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.”

“No, he hasn’t,” said the Child, his bottom lip jutting out. “He HAS NOT run out of animals.”

I looked at his beautiful sun of a face, his bottom lip quivering, and sighed.

“Let’s talk to Daddy about it when he gets home,” I said. “Daddy might have some bright ideas.”

“Really,” said the Child, hopefully.

“Really,” I said.

HA!

I kissed the Child’s soft head and told him to run outside and play. I grabbed an old shoe box, and tucked his letter to Santa safely inside for later.

ARI CHÁVEZ

Ari has had work published in Australia, England, Japan and Singapore. She has a delightful toddler, Gabriel, who was born with coffee in his veins. She is currently completing her first novel as part of a PhD project.