Pet perception

When was it that I lost control? Was it when my first child was born? Or earlier? Perhaps at the moment of conception? No, even earlier, I think. It may have happened during that first tentative discussion between my husband and me in which we agreed that having children was, indeed, a good idea.

I may not know when I started to lose control, but I know exactly when I realized the process was complete: The moment the lizard came to live with us.

I am one of those moms who believes all homes should be reptile-free. I can do dogs. Dogs are great. We have always had at least one. At times, we’ve had as many as three. I can even do cats, although not quite as enthusiastically. And my kids love our kitten, despite his complete indifference to them.

But a lizard? It pushes all bounds of petdom.

Only a snake would have been worse. Apparently, my family believed me when I said that if a snake moved in, I would move out. Unfortunately, it never occurred to me to extend the threat to all reptiles.

The whole lizard thing was my husband’s idea. One that he didn’t even have the nerve to run by me. It started as a promised"surprise” that never quite materialized. It seems the friend of the son of a friend (follow the connections?), a college kid at Southern Illinois University, had a full grown lizard of unknown lineage. He was looking to unload, er, find a new home for, the reptile. But the college kid turned out to be unreliable—perhaps a character trait found in lizard lovers? I wonder—and the surprise never materialized.

Throughout the months of promises during which my husband continued to keep me in the dark about the true nature of the surprise, I kept saying,"Please, tell me it isn’t a puppy.”"No,” hubby would reply,"it isn’t a puppy.” Turns out he should have said,"When you find out, you’re gonna wish it was a puppy.”

The fateful day finally arrived. It is not the full-grown lizard of unknown lineage my husband had planned to present to his son and, by extension, to me. That lizard still lives in Carbondale, apparently. But the friend’s son, feeling guilty that my son still was eagerly awaiting his surprise, simply went to a pet shop and purchased a baby lizard, this one of known lineage: a bearded dragon.

It’s only about 4 inches long now, but will grow to be five times that size. My son is enthralled. I am appalled.

He attaches the thing to his shirt and walks around the house saying,"Geez, Mom, just pet him. Dontcha think he’s cute? Why won’t you at least touch him?”

Why? Because lizards are things best viewed behind plate glass at the zoo. Or the aquarium. Or wherever it is you go if you happen to be in the mood to view them. Which I never have been. So, if I don’t want to view one behind plate glass, why would I want to touch one in my own home?

And I haven’t even mentioned what they eat, have I? That was one of those things I never wanted to know. But now I do. They eat crickets. Live ones. And mealy worms. Worms. In my house.

OK. So the lizard is kind of cute. But I don’t plan to pet him, let him cling to my clothes or in any way cuddle him. Nor do I plan to feed him, no matter how much my son begs.

In fact, I swore any lizard-support activities would be solely my husband’s responsibility, but I already have been to the pet store once to buy $43.08 worth of lizard accoutrements, including a lizard climbing thing, a lizard hiding thing and a lizard sunning thing. And despite my protestations to the contrary, I fully expect to find myself driving him—my son, not the lizard—to the pet store again in the future to buy more of those poor, unsuspecting crickets.

When I do, I will send my son into the store while I wait in the car, standing my ground and refusing to hand over my credit card for the live creatures that will feed the reptile living in my house. After all, I have to exert some control somewhere.

Cindy Richards is the travel editor of Chicago Parent. She is always on the go with her husband, Scott Fisher, and kids Evan, 13, and Tess, 10.

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