This matter goes back to the 11th of April, 2011 when my daughter turned 5 years old. I was lame enough to ask her what she wanted as a birthday present. “A dog”, came the unexpected reply. Of course I saw her play with every dog we met on our way to school, but I was under the impression that kids of parents who were not pet lovers kind of got the hint or a whiff to be more appropriate. I tried to laugh it off, like moms usually do when faced with questions they don’t want to answer, but it didn't work. “Yes, I want a pet, a puppy!” she said it out louder.
Now this was a situation that needed a quick temporary fix, something that could defer the inevitable indefinitely. I was faced with this impossible and horrendous task of saying NO to the birthday girl without spelling it out. Wait, wasn't there a figure of speech to describe something like this; saying yes when you actually mean no?
“Sweetie you are too young to take care of a pet right now”.
“You could help me!”
Hmm, that’s what mommies did, didn't they. Help their babies out.
“Tell you what, you can have a pet when you are 8.” I said after a long conversation which cannot be replicated here since I have forgotten most of it.
“Ohhh thank you Mom, thank you thank you thank you! I love you! You’re the best”!!!
And that settled it for then.
As cliche as it may sound, time does fly and soon we were making plans for a grand 8th birthday celebration. Only, a small little voice got added to the mix. And this one wanted ‘a kitty’,
So now, I was dealing with an eight year old who had the memory of an elephant and a four year old who loved cats enough to want to have one home. The older one started reminding me more than a month back every waking hour about the promise made years ago and the younger one kept repeating all that the older one said substituting the word puppy for a kitty.
And this time around, the lies were not going be sufficient. I tried stalling it one more time but she wouldn't hear of any more false promises. Being left with no other choice, I decided to come clean. I told her that having a pet at home was a lot of work and I didn't have that kind of time right now.
“But you don’t have a job” was what I got in response and only the innate knowledge of her desperateness for a pet dog gave me the strength to bear that insult. I was offended, big time.
Then I told her that her sister was finally out of diapers and into preschool, I didn't have the inclination to take on extra responsibility for now.
“But Mom, you just have to look after the puppy while I am at school, I am going to be responsible for it rest of the time”
“You come back from school at 3 p.m., that’s more than half the day gone.”
“Well, don’t you think you could help out just a little bit, it would be kind of mean not to!”
OK, so I was without a job and a mean person too just because I didn't want a pet in the house. She sure did make my day.
We went to and fro the entire birthday month, she practicing on her perseverance skills and me using the veto power, saved up for demands like these. I somehow managed to put the point across that getting a dog was something she had to consider after being completely capable of its care and protection. She continued to throw tantrums of varying degrees every time we ran into a dog, which was atleast once during the day considering that many of our neighbors have pets but we got over the “but WHY can’t I have a puppy” stage. Now we know why, but are still mad about it!
So what would a wise person learn from this whole birthday present debacle that lasted more than 4 years? Apparently, not much.
Her little sister has her birthday a month after. We start planning another birthday party even before we finish off with the first one. And it wasn't exactly a surprise when I popped ‘the’ question, to which she replied, “I want a pet. I want a kitty cat.” If this wasn't de ja vu, it was something close.
With my second daughter though, the disadvantage was even greater. Her older sister stood right behind her, protecting their interests, fully equipped to save her from falling into my trap of adjournment. What didn't work in my favor was that unlike the older one who was more into animals than humans, the younger sibling couldn't be happier with either.
Her best friend in preschool has a younger brother and that makes her feel smaller because at home she is the younger one, not that it makes her any less bossy or stops her from beating up her older sister if need be. Many of the days when I pick her up from school she sulks in the car “why don’t I have a baby brother?” And since she is too young to understand the phrase ‘we are done! (OMG we are soooo done!”), I try and steer the conversation away to something else or tell her that some people have brothers and some have sisters and that she has a sister who loves her very much.
We have been arguing about getting a pet all over again with only a month gone by in between, only this time with a different individual in the house and the conversation gets pretty interesting. She puts us in this catch 22 situation.
“Get me a kitty.” And before I can even respond, “You have to get me a puppy if you get HER a cat” chips in the big sister.
“Sorry baby, we are not getting a kitty in this house.”
“Then, get me a small baby brother, just like my friend.” As if she was doing us a favor by offering alternatives.
“All we are getting this year is a birthday cake and new bikes for you girls”. I know I can’t win this one with words, but I try.
“Why can’t we have a puppy or a kitty or a small baby in this house? It’s our house too, you know.” I bet the word dictator hasn't dawned upon them yet.
You can tell the younger one is still trying to figure out what kind of person doesn't pick even one out of all the three options available and the older one is just afraid to say it aloud; that thought that crosses her mind every time a cute little puppy comes in front of her, moms can be mean and they lie and they break their promises too, mine did.