I feel like I run a mini zoo, and no I am not talking about the children in our household but the pets… We currently have a hamster, two cats, and two rabbits. The snail and the rabbits are “the children’s” pets.
The cats are relatively easy to look after and I don’t expect the children to be responsible for their care, beyond feeding them and playing with them, and being gentle and kind to them, and the hamster is actually my hamster, so I do all his care and cleaning, happily. But the rabbits are another matter…
When we got the rabbits, after being offered them by our neighbors, who’s current rabbits had had babies, the children swore blindly, promised faithfully and crossed their hearts that they would be the ones to play with them, feed them, clean them out and look after them.
Ahem, I was hoodwinked. I believed them, and thought it would be good for them to learn how to care for an animal properly, so I agreed (the husband is much wiser than me and was entirely skeptical at the time, and now gleefully likes to remind me of this, at every opportunity, usually when I am cleaning up rabbit poo) and of course we now are terribly fond of the rabbits, and they are very cute and cuddly and the children do love them.
But, getting them to take actual responsibility for cleaning, feeding and caring for them has taken, shall we say some strops and foot stomping on my behalf and then finally the threat to re home them, if the children didn’t actually take some part in their care.
I don’t want to give the rabbits to a new home, and I know it would make the children very sad, so this summer holidays I basically told them that they had one more chance to prove that they could have a pet that needed looking after and that they (with some help of course, I am not a totally mean parent) would need to look after the rabbits. If I have to nag them to feed them, get them out to play with them, clean them, etc, then it means they really aren’t that bothered and therefore we need to find them owners that will be bothered.
It worked. They do love their rabbits, they just needed, frankly, a wee kick in the pants (not literally, I promise) and some actual responsibility handed to them.
So, now they clean out the rabbits (with some success, I do have to help a bit, and supervise) and they don’t have to be reminded to feed them. They know that I am serious. A pet is a proper responsibility, and you can’t just not look after them. They know that if they want to keep the rabbits, then they have to be active in their care, and the serious bits, like feeding and cleaning and not just the cute bits like cuddles and treats.
So, all is well in the petting zoo, the rabbits are loved and cared for (they never weren’t loved, and not cared for, I did all the cleaning out etc, before the children took on the job) and actually it’s been good for the children to realize that Mummy meant business and that they have to follow through on their word and take responsibility.
Now, lets not mention the dog they are nagging me to get… Not that the cats would allow it… 😉