One of my parenting class graduates (and now a friend) emailed me, saying he had searched my site looking for something I had written on pets so he could post his family’s story in the comment section. Turns out that I have never written about pets! Well, I have Cary’s permission to share his story now, as the first entry on the new subject matter!
So, it all started with Vittoria. She was at a friend’s house and fell in love with her friend’s hamster. Now she wants one. As it turns out, hamsters are not really a whole lot of work. They need to be kept fed and cleaned but don’t need too much more than that. Best of all, it’s not a “long-term” pet (note: some turtles will live to be 100 years old, now that’s responsibility!!!). However, since we weren’t interested in taking care of the hamster for Vittoria, we made a point of mentioning at the family meeting that she would need to feed and clean up after her hamster.
The problem then became what would we do if we purchased the hamster (and all the accessories that go with it) and she then gave up on the plan? Not so good of a learning experience. So, instead, I built a training program for her. She got her own “cage” (she picked up a big tupperware container from the kitchen) and her own “hamster” (a small stuffed toy). Then, I created “food” tickets and “clean up” tickets. I placed the tickets in a bowl in the kitchen. Vittoria’s job involved taking one food ticket and one clean up ticket to her hamster each morning. Then, after school, she would repeat the process.
The first two days, Christianne and I assisted. On the third day, Vittoria did it by herself. On the fourth day… She forgot. That’s when Raphael stepped in. He was very concerned that she was going to let her “hamster” starve. By the end of the week, Raphael had become quite exasperated with Vittoria’s inattentiveness. Vittoria suggested that maybe they could put the hamster in his room so he could feed/clean it more easily. He quickly pointed out that it was supposed to be her hamster.
That weekend, we had another family meeting. On the agenda was “Vittoria’s Hamster.” Vittoria suggested that she didn’t want to feed and clean up after her hamster anymore. She then suggested that maybe she could try again when she was a bit older. I have to say, the whole process was incredible. We know that our kids are both very responsible, but watching a five-year-old come to the conclusion that she’s not “ready” for a pet was an amazing thing.
On the flip side, Raphael has now asked me to make “poop” tickets so that he can practice for when he gets his pug. Oh my.