Our youngest son has hinted several times about wanting a pet of his own.
He has a small cache from his October birthday that he is carrying around and I’m trying to keep it safe from whims and perceived-needs, but his dad took him to visit the pet store recently.
Why? the sensible mother cries.
I love animals—we have two dogs that we adore and for years I’ve been the one asking for a bird or a bunny. But the thought of my son choosing a pet from the pet store conjures up smells and sounds and unhappy accidents I want no part of, and I know my husband wants no part, also. So why the pet store?
Parenting is not for the spineless and so many of us should stiffen up first, pump some iron-willed convictions that will sustain us for decisions bigger than pets and clothes and toys and movie choices. For crying out loud: I don’t have the guts to take my son to the pet store. The dolls I played with as a child and the flour-sack babies we carried around in high school home economics were no kind of preparation, at all.
They should find a better way to simulate parenthood.
Turns out that the store, with it’s cages and aquariums and little mass-produced-pet pods, held no allure for our son beyond just looking. If he was wanting something, it wasn’t to be found there.
Or maybe all he ever wanted was just to see the pet store—that forbidden place mom would never take him.
But my husband couldn’t have known that, and what would he have done with an eleven year old pleading for an iguana or a ferret or a spinning-spinning hamster? Bags of pet bedding. Dribbling water-bottle-thingies. Live food. Missing pets. And guess who would carry the brunt of the upkeep/nagging?
I think we’re scared (I’m scared) of desire that leads to disappointment, the kind that keeps us (keeps me) away from pet stores. This must be true in my personal life as well as my parenting; scared of disappointment, I stick too much inside the circle of a life I can handle.
This is why we don’t go to pet stores with mom. We go with dad.
So I asked my husband: why did you take Ethan to the pet store?
His answer was that he simply wanted to bless Ethan. We’d been all over town running our errands that day and Ethan was along for the boring duration of adult tasks. He wanted to do something that was just for Ethan, something he’d been asking for.
He hadn’t asked for a pet, just a trip to the pet store.
I go ahead and carry all those types of questions out to their logical conclusions (this is a slippery-slope fallacy, my kids remind me). A trip to the pet store = can I buy a hairy, smelly, scratchy, gnawing pet? To avoid the inevitable conclusion, we don’t go to the pet store in the first place.
I keep it simple by limiting the opportunities, great-parent-that-I-am.
In the mystery of Christ and following and worshiping Him, hope takes us a lot further than assumptions. When I live with assumptions I narrow down the hopes to only those things I think are possible, and my mind falls so short of mystery. My mind focuses on what I can see and hear and know, and then filters all that through what I assume will happen.
And I almost always assume the worst and the least. I end up landing on results that are far less than mysterious, far removed from impossible. Sensible, moderate, unpretentious, small-living; my assumptions make me believe only a few things.
But hope, properly placed in Christ, opens the door to endless possibilities.
I should really start parenting from those hopes and living from those hopes, not the assumptions that sell me short. This might look like a pause before that jump to conclusion, a yes to the pet store, a brave step toward opportunity. It might turn out that I’m more pleasantly surprised by the outcomes than my disappointing assumptions would lead me to believe.
Or, it might look like a spinning-spinning hamster in a stinky smelly cage with a drippy-drippy water bottle.