From the age of ten until my early teens, I cycled through a lot of pet hamsters. I was so into them that I had multiple books about them, built elaborate cages for them, and even had that little ball that allowed them to roll around the house to their tiny hearts’ content. Eventually I became a teenager with less of an interest in hamsters and more of an interest in friends and sleepovers and New Kids on the Block, and then I became an adult, and eventually I became a mother. But the other day, as I breakfasted my two children, I realized how familiar everything was feeling, and I’ve discovered that it’s almost like I have hamsters again. Here’s why:
1. My kids, like hamsters, are messy. If I do not clean their room/cage for a long time, bad and smelly things will happen. Trying to teach my kids to clean is like trying to teach my hamsters to clean — they just look at me blankly, with their adorable eyes, while stuffing things into their cheeks.
2. My kids, like hamsters, are always hungry. When they are bored, they think they are hungry, and will scratch me with their claws until they get their large helping of pellets/veggie straws.
3. My kids, like hamsters, like to make nests. They make these out of whatever flotsom and jetsom they find lying around — they particularly like millions of tiny scraps of paper that they cut themselves out of larger, more useful pieces of paper. Also they will use any stuffies, pieces of cardboard, blankets, articles of my clothing, and bits of rope and sticks and pine cones that they find. And then if I tell them to NOT do that they just look at me blankly with their adorable little eyes and start stuffing things into their cheeks.
4. My kids, like hamsters, smell like a pair of old sweat socks when they sleep. Their room smells like sweaty old hair, no matter how high I set the fan, nor how vigorously it oscillates.
5. My kids, like hamsters, have elaborate gadgets to entertain them, but they end up playing with the same darn thing over and over again. They would also rather play with GARBAGE than with the nice new doll they got for Christmas/nice new toy from the pet store. And I’m talking literal garbage (See #3).
6. My kids, like hamsters, are pack-rats (pack-hamsters?). They will squirrel away (hamster away?) anything that they want to “save for later.” This is why I have found such things as old bits of hard cheese, raisins, old carrots, even old yogurt drinks in the corners of my kids’ rooms, or, even worse, in the pockets of their clothing that has been through the wash already. Because I do not check their pockets before I wash their clothes, because that would be completely smart.
7. My kids, like hamsters, are illogical. Those hamsters would run on their running wheel or in their little ball, and they really thought that there they had discovered true freedom. I know this because when I would try to take them out of their cage they would sometimes get in that wheel and try to run away from me. My kids believe in many illogical things as well. Like that it’s fair to decide you don’t want something after you have consumed it in it’s entirety. “Mommy. I realized that I didn’t actually want that snack, I wanted the other snack! WAH!”
8. And, finally, The books I bought to tell me about kids, not unlike the books I bought to teach me about hamsters, DID NOT ACTUALLY TEACH ME ANYTHING, nor did they prepare me for what it would actually be like having kids/hamsters. I had to learn on my feet, and learn on my feet I did. This learning involved being peed on and bitten several times, having them escape several times, and throwing up my hands in frustration several times. But I never gave up. Well, not until they were inevitably eaten by the cat, of course. The hamsters, not the kids.