The Time I Thought Getting My Kids Pets Would Teach Them Responsibility

Chicagoland mom, best known as Baby Sideburns, shares an excerpt from her new book, "Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be A-holes."

You know how when you go to Target and you end up buying all these impulse items you didn’t plan on buying like a new hairdryer and tiki torches and an ottoman? Annoying, right? That’s nothing. You know where it REALLY sucks to buy impulse items? Let me tell you.

It all started one day when the kids and I were driving home.

ME: Hey guys, we just need to stop and pick up some kitty litter.

Note, I did not say let’s just pick up some kitty litter and a whole F’ing zoo, but for some reason that’s what my douchenuggets heard. We walk into PetSmart and before the automatic doors even close behind us . . .KIDS: Pleeeeease can we get something?

ME: No.

THEM: Can we just get a bird?

ME: No.

THEM: I want a hamster!! Pleeeeeeease can I?

ME: NO.

THEM: But we don’t have a pet!!

ME: What are you talking about? You have a pet. A cat.

ZOEY: That’s YOUR pet.

HOLDEN: Yeah, we want our OWN pets.

TOGETHER: Please please pleeeeeease, can we pleeeease just get a fish?

ME: A fish?

Shit shit shit, I already broke the cardinal rule. I showed the itty bittiest sign of caving and now they are allllll over me like white on rice.

THEM: Pleeeease, we’ll take care of it completely, we swear!!! We’ll do everything!

FYI, if your kid says this, DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. They are pathological liars and there’s no such thing as a child who takes care of their own pet without you constantly nagging them. Of course, at the time I didn’t know this yet and I was like, perfect, this will be an awesome way to teach them about responsibility.

And besides, how bad can a fish be?

ME: Hmmm, one fish, guys?

ZOEY: One for him and one for me.

ME: In one tank?

ZOEY: Yessss!!!

And before I even answer them, they’re running around the store like maniacs. So we track down the PetSmart guy, let’s just call him Angus, and we tell him what we want.

ME: Two small, easy-to-care-for fish, preferably the kind that have a really short lifespan. (Like an hour or two.)

ANGUS: A fish? You don’t want fish.

I shit you not, the pet store guy, as in the guy who’s supposed to convince naïve humans to buy animals, tells me we don’t want fish. All of a sudden I’m loving Angus.

ANGUS: Fish are super hard to care for. You want a gecko.

ME: Ummmm, no. We do NOT want a gecko.

ANGUS: Geckos are way easier than fish. I have nine geckos in my house.

And he proceeds to tell me allllllll about his nine geckos, only I’m not really listening because he’s talking about lizards that just cost money and don’t cuddle so as far as I’m concerned there is ZERO reason to buy one, and I’m picturing his dark apartment full of nine glowing aquariums with geckos and there’s only one thing that’s going through my head. Seeeerial killlllller.

But apparently Angus isn’t a serial killer and actually knows WTF he’s doing because pretty soon I realize the only way to get Angus to shut up about his nine geckos is to agree to buy one.

… And then it gets worse.

Zoey doesn’t want a gecko and has chosen her own pet and she’s chosen a guinea pig, and I must be high or something because I say yes, but only after I have committed to buying her one does Angus explain to us that you can’t just have one guinea pig because guinea pigs are herd animals and need companions or else they get really mean and start eating people’s eyes out.

… My kids walk out of the store with their new pets AND something else. Two GINORMOUS smiles and a crapload of new responsibilities. And that’s when I realize something. Maybe it’s worth it.

Two days later: No it’s not.


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