I’m Not Bonding with My Son’s Hamster…

…and it worries me. My husband and sister have a running joke that when I go to the farm I french-kiss the cows. It’s not that bad. I swear that my lips – let alone my tongue – have never touched a cow. But I do love animals. And this cute little thing, with the twitchy nose that pops up out of the bedding whenever you walk in the room, the little eyes that implore you to take it out of its cage, would melt anyone’s heart. And yet, I remain ice cold to her manipulations.

This hamster is actually Hammy 2, but we are not allowed to call her 2, just Hammy. We are not to mention the fact that there was a hamster before her, because it did not end well. Now that one, Hammy 1, I really didn’t care for. Every time you picked it up the thing would clamp down on your finger so hard that blood would seep out in huge drops. I am not kidding, it hurt like sticking your finger in a socket. Older Son had to wear winter gloves in order to handle it. But he loved that rodent like his life depended on it.

Well one night we’d gotten the cat all hopped up on catnip and then went back to what we were doing, not realizing that she had snuck upstairs for some munchies. Older Son ran up to get something and came back down sobbing and in a panic. “Mommy Pumpkin was reaching under the dresser and I looked under there and I saw Hammy lying on his back with his legs in the air.” A tragic victim of cat-on-hamster violence.

It wasn’t the boys’ first experience with the death of a pet but it hit them much harder. We had a long period of mourning and hating the cat. I had to convince them not to physically harm her, but they were allowed to say what they wanted. And strangely I spent a lot of time processing it with Older Son’s teacher. He was working it out in school. Lots of writing, talking, and sharing about it with the class. I hope the other kids weren’t traumatized. They tend to help each other through it though. I’ve found that kids can be pretty oblivious a lot of the time but when they see someone is truly hurting, they respond. I think they got him through it.

So after a proper period of time to absorb the shock of Hammy 1’s passing, we went back to the store for Hammy 2. I liked her much better. No biting, very timid but playful. I don’t often see Older Son that happy. Nowadays I clean her cage and make sure they feed her and take her out for exercise, but still refuse to fall in love with her. Even when she puts her paws up in front of her in the way “that means she’s curious,” as Older Son informed me, and “she wants to play with you Mommy.”

In reality I know why I don’t love this pet. Because when she goes, I need to be prepared for picking up the pieces of my child’s shattered, loving heart. I won’t have time to grieve for myself. Oh come on, what adult grieves for a hamster anyway? But am I missing part of the experience because I don’t just wuv her so much? Older Son would think so. In his eyes I should be loving her as much as he does. So I pretend to while keeping her at a safe distance. I will not love you, Hammy 2! Because I just love my kid more.

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