Children and Dead Pets
Our hamster was 2½ years old.
We bought her the same day Mr M broke his arm.
The same day Miss 5 learned that even adults who ’can’ skate fall over sometimes.
One of the many days we took on Miss 2 in the battled of wills over her winter coat.
The battle of wills over the seatbelt.
The day the extent of our ’bribes’ took a whole new turn.
”Let’s just TRY ice skating …You CAN do it! …Everyone falls over sometimes …Come on!
…If you try, …We can go and buy a hamster afterwards!”
– Mr M
We’ve talked about the lifespan of a hamster many times.
Sometimes met with an overjoyed ”can we buy a rabbit them?”.
Mostly, with no interest whatsoever.
But she started squinting.
Jumpy, as if surprised we were there, as if she hadn’t heard us coming.
Not sure of her footing as she climbed the sides of the cage.
She fell down.
We moved her to a a new bungalow cage, not wanting her to hurt herself.
She liked exploring that.
But she didn’t seem well.
Miss 7 wanted her in her room.
She took care of her.
She moved some lamps so it wasn’t too bright.
She was offered more treats than ever before.
Her water and food was topped up and replaced every day.
We said she was old (for a hamster).
The odd ”can we have a dog then?”
Miss 7 came home from school with a friend.
Ran straight upstairs and CRIED!
She definitely wasn’t coming out to greet her.
There was no sound.
We lifted up her little house.
Carefully moved it to the side.
And there she lay curled up in a little ball, cuddled in bedding.
A dead hamster and a heart broken 7 year old.
There was no talk of a rabbit or a dog, no indifference, only tears.
She wanted to be alone with her friend.
She wanted to stroke her.
When …Or why do do we get freaked out about death?
Nobody was any less willing to stroke her.
To hold her.
…Should you do that?
I don’t know?
Why shouldn’t you?
Why should they not want to touch her?
Why should they feel they should keep a distance?
Miss 7, Miss 4, Mr 2, they just wanted to touch her.
She wasn’t cold.
She wasn’t jumpy.
She didn’t look unwell.
In the midst of it, Mr 2 learnt to say dead.
You know when a toddler says the same word again and again. Different intonations. Different volumes. Differing reverence! ”DEAD”.
”Dead? …dead …”
We found a little box.
(One that I put aside months ago for this very moment).
The girls filled the bottom with woodchip and lay a bed of shredded tissue.
They lifted her over.
Nestled her in.
Put on the lid.
Our little friends dad came to pick her up.
Of course, he had to see the box.
Out with a spade, a stone and the box.
Miss 7 says you HAVE to pray for animals. So we prayed.
They were peaceful.
They had shaped what was going to happen, and we did it.
We listened to them.
…I had hidden MY reluctance to stroke her.
They hadn’t notice.
I didn’t darken their experience of death.
I didn’t make it anything to be scared to touch.
Why? when? What would make me shy away?
I learn from my children.