Archive | June, 2013

“Mom, Can We Keep Him? Please??”

26 Jun

The kids came to me yesterday with a tiny black kitten, a wild stray that couldn’t have been more than four weeks old. His trembling little head peeked out from my son’s cupped hands and he looked fearfully at all of us with beautiful, malachite eyes. I knew what was coming. “Mom, can we keep him?”

(SIGH.) It was supposed to be a carefree afternoon of summer fun, swimming with the kids, but all of a sudden I was thrust into the unenviable dark side of motherhood. I had to be the voice of reason. I had to be the one to say, “NO.”

Twenty years ago – ten, even – my heart would have instantly melted at the sight of a homeless kitten, and I would have said “Yes” without hesitation. But now I view things from a different perspective. Now I see things as a parent, a bona fide grown-up. And I think about every time that I pestered my own parents with “Can we keep him? Please?” Oh, I totally get it now.

Imagine, if you will, an ordinary Saturday morning. You’re running errands with the kids, laughing, happily singing songs in the car. Then, right in front of the grocery store, somebody has a box of puppies…and now your whole harmonious morning is about to end in disappointment and tears of betrayal, because YOU have to be the bad guy. YOU have to tell your children, “NO.” One minute your kids think you’re the greatest thing since peanut butter because you promised them a pack of gum; the next, they’re crying and angry, looking at you like they finally understand the meaning of neo-fascist dictator. At that moment you’ve never hated anyone as much as the selfish woman who brought that box of puppies to the supermarket. Whatever happened to solidarity? Mothers are supposed to stick together!

Of course, I see this clearly now, but I do remember being on the kid side of that fence. I remember wanting to bring home every stray, abandoned or otherwise found creature. If my parents had been reasonable people, my childhood would have included about 14 dogs, at least 30 cats, wild rescued birds and store-bought parrots and canaries, a huge fish tank full of piranhas, hamsters in a room-sized tunnel kingdon, bunnies in every imaginable color, a couple of ponies and a three-legged deer. Alas, my parents were not that reasonable, and more than once I tearfully vowed that when I was a grown-up – when it was MY turn to make the RULES – I would never EVER turn away an animal who needed a home, who needed my love. NEVER.

For the most part, I kept my word. I was barely an adult when I had my children, and my heart wasn’t calloused yet. When they would come to me, cupping yet another breathing thing in their hopeful hands, pleading, “Mom, can we keep him? Please?” I always gave in. Cute and hungry guaranteed a home with us. Not to mention that fantastic feeling I would get when I said “Yes, we can keep him” and my kids thought I was the GREATEST.

Subsequently, for the last twenty years, I have been the one walking the dogs, changing the litter, shampooing the carpets, shampooing the animals, buying the food, serving the food, paying vet bills, making sure they don’t run away, making sure they don’t run into traffic, cleaning out guinea pig, hamster cages and fish tanks, ridding the house of animal smells, endlessly vacuuming pet hair, crying over ruined furniture and rugs, only to eventually get the pleasure of paying expensive euthanization and cremation bills, or even better – digging holes in the woods – and comforting sad children as they once again confront death. Because of all this, it has become much easier to say “NO.” I am not cold-hearted – I am TIRED. New pets bring more love and laughter into a house, but they also bring more WORK, and I do not need more WORK. I have plenty TO DO. And as much as I have loved nearly every two-, three-, and four-legged creature that graced our home over the years, I am ready for a house that is void of pet hair, litterboxes and animal smells. Really…it’s time.

Which brings me back to yesterday. When the kids came to me with that itty bitty kitten, I realized (since the “children” are 22 and 17 years of age) that it was time they understood the harsh reality of being a responsible grown-up. This was a teaching moment, an opportunity to remind them that impulsive choices have lasting consequences. Somewhere deep in my heart I felt a sad farewell happening to the optimistic child I once was, as I confirmed myself to be a rule-abiding, sensible adult. But it was right, and it was necessary.

My kids – who had already named the kitten at this point -gave it their best, of course. “But Moooooom, look at him! He is soooo cute! He needs us! He won’t survive on his own! Look – he likes us already! Come on, Mom…please? Can we keep him??”

“NO.” I put my foot down. “We are not having another animal. He does NOT have a name, and we are NOT taking him home, and that is FINAL!” I know they thought I was being unreasonable, and that hurt a little bit, but I DID have my reasons, and I was NOT backing down, no matter how much they pleaded. I took the tiny black furball from my son and paced around, stroking his head while I decided between letting him go free again, to live an uncertain life foraging for food and shelter in the wild, or taking him to the nearest humane society, where he might hopefully be adopted by a loving family.

I walked around for an eternity, weighing those options, and looking down at this fragile little life that was, quite literally, in my hands. He was quiet, content to be held and petted, looking back up at me patiently, trustingly, expectantly, with sad, knowing green eyes (pretty much the same way the kids were looking at me) and I knew what had to be done.

J.D. (that’s what the kids named him) spent his first night in his new home in a cardboard box at the foot of my bed. He’s adjusting to his new home very well. I just added cat food to the shopping list.

And my kids think I’m the GREATEST.



18 Jun

What to do in the event of a SCARE (Spider’s Casual Appearance Represents Emergency)

1. Scream. This is the precursor to initiating Standard Spider Defense Protocol.

2. Initiate Standard Spider Defense Protocol by jumping high up into the air and backward 3 feet. This is usually difficult, but surprisingly easy to do in the presence of an 8-legged monster.

3. Quickly procure a trapping device. When inverted, it should trap the spider underneath; therefore, it must be hollow inside. A perfectly flat device, such as a book or the bottom of your shoe, will surely squash the spider, producing gobs of gory grey matter and a loud popping, squishing sound that will follow you into your dreams. To survive a SCARE without damaging your psyche, it is imperative that your trapping device will merely trap the spider, not kill him.

4. Approach the spider carefully. Watch him for sudden movements that may imply a higher level of intelligence. This is important. Most spiders will try to run at this point, and some might freeze in fear, but there is always the chance that your unwelcome guest has a thought process and malevolent will. You must move quickly, trapping the spider completely underneath the device with one swift movement, because if the spider senses what you are about to do, he will surely jump out of harm’s way, grab your wrist with his scary fangs and bite down hard, killing you instantly.

5. Before running to get help, take a few moments to observe the spider in his holding cell. It might be a good idea to place a heavy object on top of the trapping device so the spider won’t be able to drag it across the floor looking for an escape route. The only thing worse than a dead spider is an escapee, who will undoubtedly run and report your murderous intentions to the entire spider community. (NOTE: If this does happen, leave the house immediately and contact a realtor.)

6. Once you are certain the spider isn’t going anywhere, leave the room and immediately seek the nearest person with a Y chromosome. Y chromosome people have hundreds of years of inbred skills dealing with arachnids, and will know what to do. Be prepared to tell him exactly what he is dealing with in there, using descriptive words and phrases like “enormous spider”, “he came after me”, and “he looks ANGRY”. Lead him to the door, and wait outside until it is over.

7. After the deed is done, and he comes back out the door, refrain from asking, “Did you get him?” This question always results in the Y chromosome person shoving the spider dangerously close to your face, laughing hysterically as you claw the air in an attempt to break the land-speed record for getting away. It is probably best not to be anywhere near him when he comes out with the spider, so he won’t be tempted to play with it. Go shopping or something.

8. When the coast is totally clear, put on rubber gloves and douse a rag with bleach, and clean any surface the spider may have contacted. Throw away the trapping device. There is a possibility that the spider’s defense mechanism was to excrete a poison so powerful that you need only touch it and you will instantly die. Better to be safe.

If you follow these steps, you will get through your SCARE. For the rest of the day you may exhibit minor signs of SCARE-related PTSD – the heebie jeebies, the creepy-crawlies, glancing over your shoulder, and checking under the toilet seat before you sit down. These are all normal, and should pass quickly all by themselves. If your spider’s leg span was larger than an inch and a half, then you might have a harder time getting over your SCARE. Usually the best cure for those type of symptoms is found in the yellow pages under PEST CONTROL.

A Single Mother’s Perspective on Father’s Day

16 Jun

This holiday is scrupulously avoided in my house, and that makes me sad, though not for me. For my children.

Happy wishes to all the caring, involved fathers…the ones who appreciate what a gift it is to have a child. You may never fully appreciate the impact you have just by being there.

Hugs to my friends who are missing their fathers.

And a swift, hard kick in the gonads to every man who thought he could just walk away – no responsibility, no accountability, no thought whatsoever to the emotional impact of that on his children, leaving the mothers to deal with the questions, the pain, the nights of children sobbing in their arms. I still don’t understand.  Relationships between men and women sometimes do not work out, and we can say goodbye to one another and move on…but how do you create a human being and never wonder what he is like, or how she is doing, or wonder if your child even looks like you? How do you go food shopping and never wonder if your own children have enough to eat? How do you pay your rent month after month, for years and years, and never wonder if your kids have a roof over their heads? How do you father a child…and just…walk away?

To all the good dads out there – hug your kids extra hard and give yourselves a pat on the back. You are making the world a better place for all of us. To the rest of you, and on behalf of exhausted women everywhere, I say thank you. You gave us the only worthwhile and lasting part of you…and we love our gifts. Our non-disposable children.