How To Say ‘No’ to: “Mummy, Can I Have a Pet?”
And so it started for me.
“Mommy can I have pet?” my daughter asks my one day after school.
Uh oh! How do I get out of that and without having to deal with a 3-year-old’s tantrum? Obviously, SHE is too little to look after a live animal (I would prefer for the animal to STAY ALIVE) and we, as parents, are too busy to take proper care of a pet on top of our current responsibilities. So the answer is NO. But what do I say? If I just say no, a meltdown is a given. If I say yes, she will hold me to it.
So the conversation continues:
My daughter, with her eyes glued to me, repeats calmly, “Mommy, can I have a pet? Everyone at school has one but me…” Her face drops and I anticipate a meltdown so I need to think of something to say. And quick!
“What pet do you have in mind?” I ask extremely cautiously as I know I am treading on thin ice here.
“A rhinoceros,” she says. Just like that, without even as much as a blink.
I sigh with relief. This conversation could be going much worse. She could be asking for a cat, a dog, or a hamster! How do I say no to that. But no. She wants a rhino. Thank goodness. I have a way out. So I ask her, “Where would it live?”
“In my room. Next to my bed.”
Of course! A kid’s room is the most obvious place for a rhinoceros to live in case you ever wondered what to do with YOUR rhinoceros.
So now, using my doubtful negotiation skills, I try to convince her that it may not be the best place so I begin, ” I think the rhinoceros is a little too bit to big to sleep next to you in your room. You wouldn’t be comfortable.”
Pulling her fingers really close together and making the cutest little face she can, he responds, “But we can get a small rihnocerus. A teeny, tiny one. Please mommy, Pleeeeeeease!”
Ow, so sweet! My heart is melting but obviously there is no way we are ever getting a rhino. So the teacher in me awakens and I start teaching some of the Sex and Relationship Ed curriculum, “But even the teeny, tiny rhinoceros will grow and become a big rhinoceros. The big one wouldn’t even fit in out living room. Just like you, when you were teeny, tiny you could sleep in a small bed but now you are growing and you need more space to play. The animals grow too.”
My daughter looks at me sternly, grabs me and hugs me tight. “I don’t want to grow up,” she tells me in a concerned voice.
Well. Done. Me. I have opened a can of worms.
But the rest of the conversation was much easier for me. And it did not end up in tears! WIN!
My mom was also a teacher (I guess teaching runs in my blood). I remember how she was trying to reason with me and convince me that I was not old enough to look after a dog. She explained that with her schedule and responsibilities she cannot do it. I promised I would do it all by myself. She didn’t fall for it. Instead, she asked me to show her how I would take care of my future dog. (At that point she still hadn’t told me whether I could or couldn’t get one! So clever!) and she worried that I would lose interest and the responsibility would fall on her. So I took my plush dog, prepared a bed, a bowl and a collar for it. I pretended I was taking it for walks, feeding it and playing with it. After a while, I did lose interest. She was right but I understood her reasons and was able to accept her opinion.
I guess, as adults, we often respond emotionally when we get asked about something we have a strong opinions about. We know our reasons and understand them but that’s because we have already weighted all the pros and cons. It’s a process not a revelation. It is crucial to remember about that when we speak to our kids. Their young minds may not be able to master the process alone. So they need guidance. They need to understand our reasons as well as their own, which can be a long journey both for them and for us. Sometimes we forget how long it took us to fully understand our parents’ or carers’ reasons when we were kids. But now we expect our own children to just accept what we say? Just because? Things stick better if our kids are given a chance to hear our reasons and test them. Time consuming and frustrating. I know. But works better in the long run.
I’m a working mum, a chocolate lover and a stubborn wife who is finding ways to live a more fulfilling life.