You see, there's a war being waged at our house, and this equine development is just the latest counter-defensive strategic use of special force I've employed ever since I became an enemy to my children's happiness.
It wasn't always like this. I used to be interested in making my kids happy. In fact, I once even went so far as to read an article online about the 3 Essential Ingredients of a Happy Childhood, or something to that effect, but was interrupted by my kids who were apparently unaware that one of the essential ingredients for a happy mother is to never interrupt her when she's wasting time on the internet.
It went something like this:
"Mom! Look at me doing this thing 50 times in a row!"
"Mom! When can we go to Disneyland?"
"Uh huh. That's great."
"Mom! Can I get a Twitter account? Jazlyn has one!"
"Leave me alone! Can't you see I'm reading about how to make you happy?! And seriously, Jazlyn? That is a ridiculous name."
And that was the end of that. But in case you're interested, I do remember the author's cute summation of the three vitally important, bare minimum requirements to prevent your child from becoming an ax murderer, or a reality TV star. They are: Time (unstructured play), Mud (outdoors), and Livestock (pets). From what little I read, you should put your children in a barn and check on them in about 18 years. They'll be just fine!
But according to my kids, the author is at least 1/3 correct, and this is the part where the happiness war comes in.
It seems my children are convinced that having a pet is essential to their happiness, well-being, and ability to play nicely and do their chores without being nagged. But I'm convinced that not having a pet is essential to my happiness, well-being, and ability to not nag kids to do things like help care for their pet. Not to mention that the 2nd essential ingredient for a happy mother is not having to clean up any more poop than is absolutely necessary.
I admit that my stance doesn't make much sense, considering that I come from a family that picked up neighborhood strays, and indulged every childhood whim for a dog, cat, hamster, rat, bird, or bearded dragon (we had all of those). For Christmas the year before last, my sister compiled a list of all our former family pets and their cause of demise (because these are the kinds of gifts one gives in my family), and there was a alarmingly high incidence of poisonings, strangulations, and deaths by rolling down the stairs in a lunchbox. So perhaps I've seen too many animals die in my lifetime, or maybe I just got that need out of my system at an early age. It could be that I'm intimidated by the process of getting a pet in another country. But I'm pretty sure it's just a poop thing.
So when I get the "can we go the pet store today?" or "when can I get a guinea-pig?" questions, and it's my happiness vs theirs, the battle is on. Insert your favorite war metaphor here, because I certainly don't know any. All I know is, crushing your child's happiness takes a remarkable amount of concentration and skill. It's kind of an art form. It's much harder than going out and just buying them a guinea-pig, let me assure you.
It's important to reply in such a way that they don't actually realize you are saying no.
When we lived in the States, I would say, "What are you talking about? We already have pets! Remember the Ferrel cats that live under the deck? Just be careful, they could give you a disease."
This one works well, "I trapped a spider under a cup yesterday. Why don't you go see if it's still alive."
Avoidance is one of the best tactics: "This is not an appropriate time to talk about this. Now can you please shut the bathroom door?" (3rd essential ingredient to a happy mother? Peeing in privacy.)
Or, taking a cue from Jack Handy, "Oh honey, guess what? I went to the pet store today, and it had burned down and all the animals were dead. Bummer. Hey, I know, let's take riding lessons instead."
Which leads me to my current tactic: stalling. I admit, I'm in dangerous, last-resort territory. When I found out that there was a stable in the middle of Amsterdam that offered riding lessons, I didn't think I would ever try to use that information as an empty peace-offering in an emotional high-stakes battle with my kids. It took a while to realize it could actually be a weapon in my arsenal for dream squelching. But when I did, Mia played right into my hands. So much so that I'm pretty sure now she wants a pony instead.
I think my next move will be to actually put my kids in a barn for the next 18 years. I should check with the stable; maybe they offer that service.
All that to explain these pictures.
Oh my, what have I gotten myself into?
Stay tuned, soon we'll be signing Sam up for sailing lessons, and joining the Amsterdam High Society club, all to avoid getting a Wii. Anything to keep my kids happily unhappy.