My family is now the proud owner of a hedgehog and a Russian Tortoise. Neither of which were my husband’s or my idea.
We are not animal lovers, nor are we pushovers. On the contrary, I am very aware of my tendency to say no. I am also very aware of my lack of enthusiasm for another living being that will create additional messes for me to clean.
So why the new pets?
We are broadening our horizons.
It has never, ever occurred to me that having a hedgehog or a tortoise as a pet would be a good idea. And certainly, not in addition to our brood of children and two naughty cats who are appropriately named Zeus and Hades.
But our kids have shown us that they are not clones of us. My oldest has decided to join the Navy with absolutely no interest in the military from either my husband or I. Our kids are all on swim team when neither he nor I can swim much more than a few lengths of the pool. Our junior in high school is in more math and science classes than I can understand. They play soccer and basketball when I would rather avoid getting hit in the head by the ball.
My point, if you were to list the interests and gifts of each of my children, they would not match up with mine. Four out of five of our kids share our DNA but in many instances, if you were to list their interests and talents, they do not match with our own.
As parents we may say that we want our kids to be happy, but how often do we practice that sentiment? Are you okay with your kid not going to college and joining the military if it makes him happy? Because I’ve had a few conversations recently in which friends have admitted to me that they wouldn’t be okay with that scenario. How about a boy who LOVES Barbie? Are you okay with that? Is it okay if your kid is not interested in sports when you live and breathe them? How far are you willing to support your kid’s interests and passions when they don’t line up with your own?
So, back to the exotic pets.
Sometime last year my 14-year-old began researching hedgehogs. For whatever reason, he was drawn to this particular pet. Honestly, the cage is in his room. If he wants that adorable creature running on the wheel at 2 am, he can go ahead. It’s not hurting me any. And, in allowing this pet he has had plenty of learning opportunities. He has spent his own time and money on this new pet and has given him an outlet of interest that makes his free time a little out of the ordinary.
Once the hedgehog came into the picture, my 9-year-old soon followed suit. Why a tortoise? I do not know. He also spent a great amount of time getting books from the library and looking on websites. He was drawing pictures of turtles and
boring regaling us endlessly with facts about them at dinner. As he developed an interest, I encouraged him to talk to a family friend who is a reptile enthusiast. This friend has been kind enough to teach him the ways of the tortoise with the excitement and knowledge that my husband and I do not possess. I am so thankful to him for taking the time to pass on his interests to our son. I know that he has learned valuable lessons and will continue to do so with this experience.
Many people have asked me why such pets. My answer, “Why not.” Why do we develop the interests that we do? Why do some of us love to run marathons while others prefer to knit? Why do some of us travel the world while others are content at home? Who knows.
I simply know that I want to encourage my kids to follow their interests and passions. I want them to know that I will encourage them and support them even when I don’t understand or share them.
My most valuable lesson in all of this is that when my kids follow their passions I learn more about the world around me too. I have learned more about subjects that I never would have learned about if it weren’t for my kids. I’m just happy that I’ve followed them and paid attention. Because of them, I’ve developed a few new interests of my own.
But don’t count on me getting a pet snake anytime soon. Because that would just be weird.