Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

A life lesson with family pets June 14, 2013

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rabbitsA little over a year ago we finally took the plunge and got the first ever pets in our family. The men-children were a little peeved by the fact that Sister of a Man-Child was actually allowed to have pets, when they never had been – clearly a moment of weakness by us, influenced by some very cute baby rabbits at a friend’s house one weekend. We were soon afterwards the proud owners of Hazel and Squeak, two very cute Mini-Lop rabbits bought from the pet shop – we even got two because we didn’t’ want them to be lonely (yep, totally sucked in).

Like all good pet-owners, we bought everything – the hutch, the pen, the toys, the special bowl and drink bottle. At night we were so worried they would be cold we initially kept them in the laundry, then when eventually we realised they stank out a small room pretty quickly, we put them outside, and covered the hutch in an old blanket. In summer, it was ice block containers to keep them cool and wet towels – yep, totally besotted.

The up side of rabbits is they clean themselves, eat the grass, and don’t make a noise. But as anyone with pets knows, there’s always some responsibility. They need feeding regularly, they should visit the vet at least once a year, they need their hutch kept clean, and they need to be kept safe.

Of course, like all good plans, they are prone to fail. So you can imagine pretty quickly who ended up feeding them, cleaning out the hutch, and caring for them – yep Mother of a Man-Child and Father of a Man-Child!!

When you have a pet, you learn about animals through close observation. We learned their joy at freedom – they would literally pirouette with excitement as they ran around the garden, and we knew when they were angry or scared – thumping their feet. Like any child caught doing the wrong thing, they knew when they were in trouble (Squeak caught digging again)! And they knew just how to nibble at your ankles to make you forgive them everything and give them an extra treat.

We did make a funny discovery some months after we got our two female rabbits from the pet shop (the owner even double checked the sex at my insistence), when we worked out that Hazel was actually Hamish!!!! A very angry call to the pet shop resulted in him paying for the snip for Hamish, fortunately before Squeak was pregnant (much to the disappointment of our kids). Seems Mr Pet Shop also didn’t tell us that these Mini-Lops were anything but Mini – they’re bigger than any rabbit I’ve seen!

Anyway, Hamish (post-snip) was actually pretty placid, but Squeak was a bit more work. I wonder if she was in need of the “snip” herself, as she became an incessant digger, constantly trying to dig her way out of their enclosure. When we eventually relented and let them be free range, she naturally dug her way into the next-door neighbours, with Hamish following close behind – never mind the dog. Ratbags!

When we overhauled the backyard, replacing the never-growing grass with a wonderful deck, it did create a challenge for our rabbits. Initially they had a ball, under the deck and house constantly, always coming back for dinner, until we discovered they’d eaten through the telephone wire!! Our Houdini’s seemed to find a way everywhere, including out into the front garden one day as well.

Eventually as we kept them confined to the backyard and realised they were slowly eating the garden, and digging their way to China, we decided the side of the house (100% concrete) was to become the rabbit run. And so it was, until just recently. Not ideal, but the best option we had. And then the last straw – we discovered that they had started eating the weatherboards, probably in protest and boredom, not in hunger I assure you!!!

It was then we finally discussed getting rid of the rabbits, for two reasons, one, to save our home and two, because quite frankly it was a bit cruel keeping them in a concrete enclosure (even though they were well fed and kept). And as you would expect, gradually Sister of a Man-Child spent less and less time with them too, which was a sticking point every weekend when we cleaned out the hutch.

So we broached the subject with our daughter, who understood our point, but was adamant they stay. Eventually, we made the decision for her, and said they had to go. Our ad for two free rabbits along with all accessories was responded to very quickly (Gumtree + “Free” guarantees success), and they were picked up the same night, with tears from our daughter and also some genuine sadness on our part. It was like giving away your children. I spent a sleepless night worrying about them – did we give them to the right person? Would they be well looked after? Were they cold, hungry, scared in unfamiliar surroundings?

The next day I sent a quick text to the new owner, checking on them under the pretence of my daughter’s anxiety (not my own of course). Thankfully he assured me they were fine, and in fact because it was raining he had them inside. Music to my ears!!!! I was so happy they were in an environment where they will be cared for, looked after, and even spoilt, alongside his other many pets.

So is it a happy ending? Well sort of. We have experienced the joy of pets, good for all of us, and also the loss of them in a roundabout way. Our holidays will be easier, as we won’t need to worry about finding someone to feed/water them every day (I even had them booked into a holiday camp over Xmas), and our house and garden will remain intact. To appease my daughter I am framing some photos of her and her rabbits for posterity – they are all very cute!

She’s already asking if she can have a cat, or dog – NO!! Been there, done that. As I said, we’re all better for the experience, but also wiser. 🙂

So tell me are you a pet family? Did you stop at one, or is there a growing menagerie in your home? Who cares for them in your house – the kids or parents? Have you ever given away a pet?

Here’s my post when we originally got our gorgeous bunnies: New Additions to the Family


Sometimes they surprise me April 6, 2012

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It is possible for the men-children to surprise me sometimes.  I am never surprised at the mess they can leave in their bedrooms, or their bathroom.  I am never surprised at the amount of food they can consume and an hour later still eat dinner, and I am never surprised when they argue and whine and throw a tantrum when they don’t get their way.

But just occasionally, when you least expect it, they can surprise you in the most unsuspecting way.  As you know we now have two new rabbits, Hazel and Squeak.  We haven’t yet managed to freeze them on a cold night, or starve them, or frighten them to death, so I guess we’re doing something right.  Sister of a Man-Child is naturally loving having them, and provides them with lots of attention every morning and evening.  And I’m pretty sure the men-children sneak out there on a regular basis to see them too.  The girlfriend of Man-Child II adores them.  Even a friend of the boys the other day was interested in them, but I think he held back because he didn’t want to be a 16-year-old boy fussing over rabbits.  I am going to make a point of encouraging all of them to play with the rabbits – it’s good for them and a bonus for the rabbits.  It’s funny how we stop doing things because we don’t think we can behave like a child anymore isn’t it?

carrotsThe other night Sister of a Man-Child and I were late home, which means Hazel and Squeak’s dinner was late!  When I arrived home, one of the boys was already home.  He casually yelled down the stairs that he had fed the rabbits, given them water and also some cabbage.  WOW!  He actually did something for someone else!  He was actually motivated to do something for another person (or in this case animal) that wasn’t directly for his benefit.  I thanked him graciously, and thought to myself it’s true – having a pet does teach children about the responsibility of caring for someone else.  I can only assume that he went out to visit them, and noticed their empty bowls and took it upon himself to feed them.  Hooray.  I wonder if I put the rabbits in his bedroom would he tidy it up?

Mind you, the same man-child doesn’t notice everything?  He asked me the other day where his father and brother were – I said away.  Blank look, followed by “I didn’t know they were going anywhere”.  To which I smugly replied “Well if you were ever at home or joined us for dinner occasionally then you’d know what was going on wouldn’t you!”  He seriously asked for that one!

Anyway, bring on more pleasant surprises.  I hope he continues to feed the rabbits when needed.  Somehow I’m doubtful I’ll convince him to clean out their cage on a weekly basis – although he might if I offer to pay!!



New additions to the family March 30, 2012

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Well we did it. We finally succumbed. I never thought we would, but we are now the proud owners of two rabbits! And like all good decisions, we wonder why we didn’t do it sooner.

Like all youngsters, the men-children always wanted a pet, specifically a puppy, which of course eventually grows into a dog. Like all practical parents, we always resisted having a pet, knowing that we would end up being the ones who walked it, fed it, took it to the vet, etc etc. Also with access to a beach house, we were often away on weekends, and the idea of having to either transport said pet or arrange to have it looked after on weekends or every time we went on holidays just seemed to be more pain than it was worth.

Father of a Man-Child had a dog when he was young, so was definitely pet friendly. The only “pet” we had as kids was the mice we bought home from school and kept in the laundry for a weekend of babysitting. I am sure my mother hated having mice in the house. And if I’m honest, I probably wasn’t the biggest animal fan, most likely as a result of being bitten by a dog and a horse as a child – there’s bound to be psychological scars from that aren’t there?

So it was naturally a surprise for the men-children when Sister of a Man-Child arrived home the other day to tell her brothers she was getting a rabbit! Their first reaction was disbelief, followed by a comment that they never had a pet so how come their sister was allowed to? 16 years old and sibling equality is still an issue. To be honest, it was a surprise to me that we had agreed ourselves. And it wasn’t even a planned decision.

Mini Lop rabbits We had visited friends the night before, whose rabbits had recently had a litter. Now even the most cold-hearted person couldn’t resist being charmed by a litter of five small rabbits – soft balls of fluff hopping around with the owner’s dog protectively herding them. They were too cute. Naturally, 8-year-old Sister of a Man-Child instantly fell in love with them, and wanted to own one. And in talking to our friends, we realised that if you were to own a pet, a rabbit is pretty low maintenance, and also fun to play with, in a way that a fish isn’t! And since the beach house is no longer, and the Men-Child’s sporting commitments seem to dictate our every move, we really don’t go far anyway. Moreover I had already earmarked a neighbour with a young son who I am hoping will just LOVE to feed our rabbits when we go on holidays. 🙂

We are now the proud owners of Hazel and Squeak, two Mini Lop rabbits (a dwarf variety particularly good for smaller children) that have been an instant hit with the family. We decided to get two so they could keep each other company – apparently it makes them healthier and happier (oh and the pet shop richer)! Our daughter adores them, the men-children have also embraced them with open arms, and even we are enjoying them. On their first night we were all so worried that they would get cold outside that the hutch came into the laundry – soft touches! They’re also a hit with any visitors (and future babysitters)!!

Our daughter is learning to care for them, and understanding the responsibility that comes with feeding, exercising and housing a pet. All good lessons for a child. And even though the boys are 16, I know they’re also coming home from school and checking on the rabbits. You’re never too old to love a pet.

One week in and the joy of the new additions to our family remain. Let’s hope the novelty doesn’t wear off, and that Hazel and Squeak have a long, happy and healthy life.