Andrew: Hey, Mom … Mom … MOM, can we have a bunny?
Me: (without even looking up) No.
Andrew: Why not?
Me: We just can’t.
Andrew: You’re so mean. I’m sick of it.
Whoa … halt. Immediately, I want to look up from my book and lecture him on respect. Instead, I breathe. What just happened here? The house is peaceful. I’m reading, and suddenly I’m being attacked? I am NOT in the mood for this today. Again, I breathe. He just wants a bunny. I just want to read. This really isn’t the time for a lesson about respect. That argument will serve no purpose except to upset us both.
I decide it’s time for a conversation. After all, I’ve been reading for a full 30 minutes. That in and of itself is a miracle. I put my book down.
Me: I know it seems like I’m mean, and maybe I am. You tell me why it’s a good idea for us to get a bunny. I’ll listen. Then, I’ll tell you why I don’t think it’s such a good idea. Deal?
Andrew: (plopping on the couch, pouting) Deal.
Me: Have at it—tell me why we need a bunny.
Andrew: Because they’re cute, and I want one.
Hmmm … I think. This will be easy. I can break this approach down in no time. But … bunnies ARE cute. I wanted a bunny when I was his age. In fact, as an adult, I had two bunnies. They weren’t that much trouble. In a child’s eyes, that’s all there is to it: Want a bunny = get a bunny = be happy. In a mom’s eyes, it’s enough to have three dogs, two cats and a few fish (when one of the cats wasn’t scooping them out of the aquarium). The thought of another mouth to feed, or litter box to clean, or an animal to keep alive is just too much. How can I explain this so he understands?
Me: Ok, that sounds great. Where will the bunny stay?
Andrew: I don’t know.
Me: Can he live in your room?
Andrew: No, bunny cages kinda stink.
Me: Hmmm … well … where should we put the cage?
We sit there stumped. Well … he was stumped; I was waiting patiently.
Me: How often will you let the bunny out to play?
Andrew: I don’t know, whenever I want.
Me: Okay. Well, bunnies need lots of exercise. We’ll have to make a chart and keep track of exercise time.
Andrew: (giant sigh) FORGET IT! This is TOO MUCH work. All I wanted was a bunny!!
Me: (smiling) Okay.
He marches out of the room, and I pick up my book. There will be no more talk of bunnies today. Score one for mom.