Thursday, July 2, 2009

Of Moths and Men

My 4 year old is allergic to almost everything. Included in that horrible overstatement, are cats and dogs. This is a cruel truth, because he is more enamoured with furry friends than almost any other child I've ever met. He wants to nurture them. In his room, he maintains a zoo of stuffed animals, each one his favorite.

He was in the bath last night when I heard him wail about a bug. Taking one of his drinking cups, he scooped the bug from the bath and held the cup high. I proposed that he discard the water, and the bug, in the toilet. "But I want to keep it as a pet!" He said, his eyes glistening in the incandescent lights of the bathroom. "Honey," I prodded. "That's a dead moth. Moths are made to fly in the air. They don't do well in water." I said, with slight sympathy. "They do if they're dead!" He rebutted and again held the cup in the air, as if he thought his logic had persuaded me. I smiled at him, took the cup and flushed the bug down the toilet.

Is this what it's come to? My child, so starved for a pet, has been forced to seek a friend in a bloated, drowned donkey of a butterfly? I tried getting him fish, but one carelessly placed Cheerio brought an army of poisoned ants to the water. By morning, the whole lot was dead. I suppose I could try a hamster or a guinea pig, but what's to say that the fate of either of those furry animals would be more favorable? Is the death of an animal a fundamental part of the process of becoming responsible for one? Can the same lesson be learned through stories, therefore sparing the life of some poor handheld mammal? For now, I'm going to try helping them learn through empathy. If that makes me a heartless mother, I'll add their therapy bills to the list of things I'm saving for.

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