March 26th began as the Mondiest type of Monday. You know, the kind of Monday that starts with too little sleep and things that aren’t tragic but border on being almost tragic?
I was sound asleep at 6:30am, which is unusual because my body clock never allows me to sleep past 6. I was awoken from my deep sleep by Calvin’s slightly alarmed sounding whisper/yell. I need your help, quickly he said. I untangled myself from the six-year old who had made his way into our bed at some time in the night and noticed that our 10 year-old son had also joined us. I vaguely remembered talking to him in the night but didn’t dwell on that and quickly slipped out of bed to find out what Calvin needed.
As I made my way out of the bedroom I could hear our daughter getting ready, she rides an earlier bus than the others, and began to worry that she was sick or hurt. My fears were quickly replaced by new fears when Calvin said it’s the hamster. A good many scenarios went through my head in that moment, and they were mostly gruesome. I then remembered what Elliott mentioned in the night! He sleepily murmured that while he was in the bathroom Finn, the hamster, crawled onto his foot! He had carried Finn back to his cage and then decided to come down to our bed.
I’m going to stop here for a moment. We love(d) this hamster. I had several hamsters growing up, all who met their end by escaping down vents, but never a hamster as sweet as Finn. Finn was a cuddler. He loved to be held and often fell asleep in our kids’ arms. He never ran away when they tried to pick him up, instead he would wait at the edge of the cage and make noises, soliciting for someone to come get him. He ate apples, pears and spinach from our hands and fell asleep in the hoods of their jackets. Finn’s favorite human in the house was Elliott. He often escaped and found Elliott and his cage was housed in Elliott’s room.He was most definitely the best hamster ever. And as a result the kids played with him a ton and enjoyed him immensely.
So there we were in the early morning light, Calvin looking pale and me looking at him trying to figure out what’s up. The hamster is dead Calvin said… Lola stepped on him. The means to Finn’s end was a series of unfortunate events. Lola rose early that morning, like a champ, and bounded down the stairs like always. She likes to hop and kind of leap down the stairs. We tend to fuss at her for this, because safety, but she never stops. She’s like our very own Tigger… but her actions are not the actions that triggered Finn’s untimely death.
Here we have the series of unfortunate events, not to be confused with the book series: a crafty hamster escapes and finds his boy, the boy returns the hamster to his cage, the boy fails to notice that the cage is loose and therefore not able to contain the crafty hamster, the boy goes downstairs in the early morning, the girl wakes up for school with limitless energy, the girl is also blind and cannot see what is on the stairs, she then hops down the stairs, the very stairs that the boy just went down, the very stairs that the crafty hamster followed the boy on… and as she leaps off the last and final step she lands squarely on the hamster who had just made quite the trek to follow his boy. (Events confirmed by our canary security camera)
I went to the bottom of the stairs and saw our little Finn. He was quite the mess. Calvin quickly let me know he wasn’t up for handling this job. (Moms… we are the tough ones) My stomach was turning a little and honestly I shed a few tears. I grabbed a few items and began to clean up the splatter zone created by the shear force of Lola’s last jump off the bottom step. I could hear Lola in the bathroom brushing her teeth. She told Calvin she landed on something but still had no idea it was the family pet.
After Finn was cleaned up, Calvin and I had a chat. We decided that we could not tell the kids that Lola landed on Finn. Rather, we decided to share that he had come down the stairs and somehow gotten hurt and killed in the process. Why? Because Lola didn’t need the responsibility and the others didn’t need to blame her. I’m going to call this parenting technique shielding.
Well friends, the kids were very grieved. We processed their loss with them and said all the right parenty things.
But guess what? Lola is smart. She put two and two together and outed herself. She realized that the thing she stepped on was Finn. She had a good cry, but I underestimated her ability to forgive herself, she did that with ease. She then outed herself to her siblings, who also forgave her.
That’s our family. We loved a hamster who met his end when our blind daughter jumped off the bottom step in the early morning and pulverized him. As parents we underestimated our children’s ability to process and forgive and instead fed them a story to protect them. It was a two-fold lesson for us.
1. Don’t buy small pets who have a tendency to escape if your child is blind.
2. Don’t underestimate your kids and take away their opportunity to extend forgiveness.
We will figure out this parenting stuff eventually.