The other morning around 6 a.m. we heard our neighbor’s son pull up outside their house to drop his kids off before he went to work.
I looked at Dan and said, “Thank God for grandparents.” He nodded in agreement.
Most of the people I know, Dan and I included, couldn’t survive as parents without the help of our own parents. For Dan and me, my mom has been a lifesaver, taking care of our kids when they were sick, and even when she was sick, so we could go to work. So we could pay the bills.
My mom is the kind of grandmother you read about in storybooks. You go to her house when you want to play with magic wands and flying squirrels and eat at a buffet of candy corn and gummy worms.
There’s a poster that hangs inside some businesses and says something like, “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten.” That poster should be hanging on the door to my mother’s house because that’s pretty much what happens every time my kids go to Grandma’s. Usually they fall asleep on the ride home from Grandma’s after telling me that they stayed up until midnight watching vampire movies from the 1980s.
This weekend when I picked my kids up from their grandmother’s house, both children brought hamsters home with them. I was told this would be a temporary situation and that the hamsters will eventually go back to my mother’s house because a) I’m scared of rodents and b) we already have a cat, a few turtles, a fire-bellied toad, a lizard that requires crickets to survive and poops every time we take him out of his cage, and a bunch of fish. We already have to hold a fish funeral a couple of times a month.
Did I mention that my daughter is allergic to everything, including animal dander?
So Dan and I had made ourselves clear about how we weren’t going to get any more animals, and yet I found myself pulling into our driveway a couple of days ago with two hamsters.
Last night we hosted our first sleepover at our house. Dan was away, so my friend spent the night with her 6-year-old daughter. My kids were excited to show their friend their new hamsters.
We thought the kids would be tired after a day of swimming, so my friend read them a bedtime story around 8:30 p.m. and turned the lights out. She came downstairs and we turned on Netflix to try to watch a movie. I say try because that’s what you do as a parent: you try.
A few minutes later, footsteps descended the stairs. And so it began.
Someone wanted a drink. Someone was scared. Could they sleep with the lights on? Could they switch beds? Could they sleep on the floor?
I’m proud to report that at no point did I stand at the bottom of the stairs and yell, “Go the hell to sleep,” though I wanted to.
I didn’t even go into the bedroom and start beating the kids with a rolled up issue of “Rolling Stone” magazine, which is what our parents used to do when my siblings and I wouldn’t go to sleep.
I did look over at my friend at one point and calmly say, “This is why I don’t usually do sleepovers.”
The two girls eventually ended up falling asleep on the floor of my bedroom. My friend drew the short straw, so she ended up sleeping with them in my bed.
I went off to spare bedroom, but before I fell asleep, my son Oliver came in to inform me that the hamsters were attacking each other and needed to be separated. He needed to go to the garage, find a box, cover the bottom with paper, and put one of the hamsters in it for the night.
So about four hours after we initiated bedtime, we were all asleep and the hamsters had stopped fighting.
This morning Oliver told me I needed to go to the pet store and buy a new hamster cage. What choice did I really have but to comply?
I guess technically I could have done something noncompliant, like screaming, “I will not buy any more pets or pet accessories!” Then I could have run out the door and down the street, never to be heard from again.
But that would have been so out of character for me.
When we called her this morning, my mother did offer to drive into town and buy the cage for Oliver. I declined, partly because I do intend to send the creatures back to her house later this week. For some reason, paying for the new cage will help alleviate the guilt I will feel for sending them back.
But why do I feel guilty?
My kids now have two happy hamsters living peacefully in separate cages. And I sure hope both are female, because it looks as though one certainly is.
At this moment, the kids are thinking of what they want for dinner, and dessert, and what they want to be for Halloween, and what they want for Christmas. They aren’t thinking about the drought, or climate change, or Syrian refugees. And they sure aren’t thinking about how, for the price of a hamster cage, I could have gotten myself a cute pair of shoes.