Motherhood Exposed

"Surviving Myth Conceptions of Posmodern Parenting...through Good Times and Bad "


Chapter two: The Birds

Myth
"No Means No"

I have birds in my house. Parakeets to be more precise. Three of them. Purchased on one of those occasions when I actually bought into false promises from my three children.

"Of course we'll take care of them, Mom. We'll feed them every day, and clean them every week, and play with them all the time and...."

You get the idea.

Anyone who has children, knows this speech, and likewise, knows better than to buy into it. Or to take any child into a pet store in the first place. I took them there and I bought into their sales pitch. No question about it, the birds are my fault.

Please don't get me wrong. I love animals. I love zoos. I love aquariums. I am all for animal rights. Just not in my own home, at three in the morning, when I awake to screeching that rivals any horror movie soundtrack. For those of you who don't know better, birds are not quiet animals. They do not know the difference between day and night, and the tiniest speck of light sends them into a chirping festival.

Now, my kids have a tendency to leave the bathroom light on in the middle of the night, which of course makes the birds assume that it must be daytime. And until I provide substantial proof that it is otherwise, the birds won't be quiet. Which basically means that I have to get up and turn off the light. Needless to say, this has not made me extremely fond of the birds.

Another problem with adding them to our family is that all the guarantees about feeding and watering them flew out the window the first week after the birds came home.

The first week after their arrival in our house was like watching a bad Brady Bunch re-run. My youngest didn't want to go to school because her bird would miss her. My oldest informed me that she was going to save up her allowance to buy her bird its own cage, so it could live in her room. My middle one started using our upstairs bathtub as a bird "playland" of sorts.

No day was complete without the birds coming out and being played with. Every child in our neighborhood was invited over to see the birds. The birds even started to look a little on the heavy side, since secretly every single child was feeding them when the others weren't looking.

Even I got caught up in the frenzy, and sawed a branch off our front-lawn tree, so the birds could play in a more "realistic atmosphere."

Then the second week rolled around, and things started to change. Suddenly the bird's food and water cups were empty. There was no more birdseed at the bottom of my bathtub. My oldest decided to buy a CD with her money instead. When I asked my youngest if she was excited that it was Saturday, and she could stay home with her bird, she replied, "You can play with him Mommy."

I stand in our hallway for at least 15 minutes before I can rejoin the general population of our household for fear of exploding. I have decided to never take my kids to the pet store again.

Six months later my middle daughter brings home a paper from school. They are in desperate need of someone to adopt the class rat, as one of the children is allergic to it. She starts the speech.

"I swear, Mom, I will feed him every day!"

"No!" I say determinedly.

"I will use my own allowance to buy his food!"

"No."

"I will clean him and water him and...."

"No."

"But he needs a home, or he'll be an orphan. He'll be sad and lonely and...."

"No."

* * *

Every night now as I cover the birds, I check on Chester the rat...just to make sure he's been fed and watered. He is a very nice rat and feels right at home in our pet orphanage.

 



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Motherhood Exposed
Chapter 5 "Disorganization and Duct Tape
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Motherhood Exposed
Chapter 11 "Venus Flytraps and Party Balloons
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I started to guilt the children.

"You know, Tweety hasn't been out in a while. He must be lonely," I said to my middle child.

"Mom..." she said as she looked me straight in the eye, "Tweety's just a bird."

The next tactic was taken straight from the parenting book of speeches.

"You know girls," I say over dinner one night, "You guys PROMISED to take of these birds when I bought them, remember?"

Blank stares.

"Remember being in the pet store, and begging me for them? We'll feed them Mom. We'll play with them..."

Still blank.

My oldest looks over at me and says, "You know I hear that if you set them free, they fly down to Florida, where they can survive in the wild."

* * *

So much for the birds. I now feed and water them. I change their little bird bath. I clean their cage. The other day, I crouched in our upstairs hallway with my hand in the cage trying to feed one of the birds a treat. My middle daughter came upstairs with a friend of hers.

"Mom, are you playing with Tweety?" I stare blankly at her, trying to process the fact that she still knows "her" bird's name. I nod my head.

"You know, you really should ask me first," she says, and takes her friend into her room.


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