It’s hard to ignore those doe-like eyes. They can melt your heart, especially if your child is under the age of seven. Especially if your child is asking, “Can we get a [insert name of animal]?”
They know how to beg.
We know how we’re apt to give in.
We all have trouble saying no to our children. But when an animal is involved, we can relive asking our own parents that same question. If you had a pet as a child, you remember that heady moment when Daddy or Mommy said yes.
Now you can answer for yourself. It’s still a heady moment, except, as the adult, now you have to follow through.
Therein is the dilemma of every parent. Before saying yes, there ought to be a mental dialogue with that inner child, with a list of chores that come along with any pet. After all, someone has to take care of it. The grownup always gets the good part.
Someone has to take the pet to the vet for its first checkup, to remember what shots it will have to have.
Someone has to know when it needs to go out.
Someone has to give it a bath after it rolls in something dead and smelly.
Someone has to trim its claws, give it medicine, train it not to chew on things.
Ah, yes. The adults do the cleaning up vomit and pee and unmentionable stinky messes. Big pets come with big responsibilities.
They also give big rewards: teaching us how to be gentle. How to listen. How to enjoy being someone else’s lap.
How to recognize pain or illness in someone who can’t speak.
Even how to say goodbye, without using words.
If you’re a new parent, now is a good time to discuss with your spouse what pets you feel you can live with. Think about when your child might be ready to help care for a small pet.
By all means, look into those huge heart-melting eyes before your child learns how to talk. And until your family is ready to welcome a pet into your home, practice saying no.