Welcome to my blog!

I'm a divorced mom with a teenage daughter and two pre-teen sons. Writing is my first love. When I'm not writing or working or playing taxi to the kids, I also toy with photography and baking.

So, basically, my camera rarely sees the light of day and my mixer stands in the corner in permanent time-out.

To see some samples of my writing, you can check out my website: www.csrickard.com

Friday, October 30, 2009

Am I a cruel mom?

I woke this morning to water droplets on the windows and a thick fog smothering the neighborhood. The houses across the pond from my backyard look fuzzy and veiled in mist. The only thing visible beyond the first row of houses is the blanket of fog. Perfect setting for the post I've been contemplating the past few days.

I was going to name this post: Is struggle and hardship a bad thing? However, the real point isn't so much about struggle and hardship as my perception of myself for thinking it isn't. So the title became what it is: Am I a cruel mom?

Sean had begged for several years to get a pet bird. I kept telling him he was too young. When he turned ten, I told him if he wanted a bird, he'd have to earn the money, not just to buy a bird and cage, but he would have to keep earning money to buy the food. The bird would be solely his responsibility. Sean being Sean jumped in with both feet and earned the money in a matter of months.

Of my three kids, Sean is the only one I don't worry about when it comes to surviving financially as an adult. I know he can, and will, do any job necessary to survive. My other two, however, are total job snobs, but that's a seperate story.

After purchasing Whistles, a green parakeet, Sean decided he needed a friend and bought Jack, a blue one. Sean was pretty good at taking care of them early on, but like most kids, the habit got old, fast. He made sure he always had food in the house, just not necessarily in their cage. After the divorce, the birds switched houses with Sean, so two weeks at my house and two weeks at their father's. Whenever they were at my house, I always checked on them each morning after Sean went to summer camp or school to make sure they had food and water. If they were low, I would remind Sean to check when he got home that day.

As the months wore on, my reminders started falling on deaf ears or he would reply that he just did it (when I knew he hadn't). I would let the birds go a few days while commenting once each afternoon about their food or water. When nothing was done, I would do it and then tell him what I did and why. The transition to mom taking care of the birds prompted several conversations about the benefits of giving the birds to the zoo or someone else who wanted them -- because mom didn't. His first reaction to those conversations was to take better care of the birds. Of course, these always came in short bursts of activity that quickly fizzled to nothing.

When the kids switched houses three weeks ago, Sean walked into my house without his birds. I noticed right away, but said nothing. I wanted to see how long it took before he remembered he left them at his dad's. As fate would have it, I had to stop at his dad's that Thursday because Sean left his hat there and it was hat day at school on Friday. Sean noticed a feather on his hat and then remembered his birds. I told him right then that this couldn't continue. With practically no effort on my part he agreed that it would be better to give the birds away. We decided they'd do it when he switched back to his dad's house the following week.

Unfortunately, the birds were out of food and neither Sean or his dad realized it. So Jack died the following week and Whistles died two days later.

Sean was in complete shock that they had died. I had warned him several times that they could die without food or water, but I don't think he really believed it would happen. At one point when he was crying, he said it was his fault and it should have been him who died, which is the whole point of this post.

As much as I love and respect all life, part of me was glad the birds died. Sean is a very reactive individual. He is very focused and intent, but he has no appreciation for his actions or their consequences. He never has. Hearing him say those words, and knowing he meant them, made me think the entire experience was well worth it. As bad as this was for him, I truly think it will stay with him and make him a better person. Things like this are never pleasant, but I truly believe they are necessary in shaping who we are, hopefully for the better.

Two days later, Sean dug a grave in his dad's back yard and the three of us buried Whistles (dad had already gotten rid of Jack's body by then).


Anonymous said...

Worked in pet store. Advised parents to get the pet that they like - because they will be caring for it. Maybe not at first, maybe not eventually either, but definitely at some point. Plus you need to learn about the pet's needs, so you might as well get one that you are interested in.

Neglecting any animal is sad. Gandhi would say that you must raise the children of the dead person (in this case, pet) as you your own! Guess this means better luck next time.


Christa said...

I know. I couldn't believe it, to be honest. It was Sean's responsibility to care of them, but really Rich should have made sure they had food and water while they were at his house. I'm sure he never checked like I did at my house. And when I spoke to him, they were both still alive and had some food left in the cage. I didn't say anything to him or Sean about that, what's done is done.

I had really hoped that the birds would have stayed alive long enough to give them away. They deserved better, unfortantely.