We are pet people through and through.
When my husband and I first met, I had four cats (yes, I realize how that looks). Together we also acquired two dogs, a purebred puppy and an older shelter dog. Sure, having six pets was a lot of work, but hands down it was totally worth it.
And through natural attrition, we are now down to two cats and one dog. One of my concerns when he started having human children (yes, my pets are my babies, too) was whether the stress of having an infant around would be tough for the four-legged children.
Those worries turned out to be unwarranted. Through lots of coaching about “soft touches” and “no tail pulling,” we came through the baby age relatively unscathed. My son, 3, now even has his first household chore: feed the dog.
It’s a daily disaster. There’s a massive dog food bin, where he unscrews the top and finds a scooper inside. Despite my attempts to get him to take small scoops, bigger is always better for my boy, and he insists on getting heaping scoopfuls. This usually equates into dog kibble skittering all over my kitchen floor.
But it’s a job he treasures, so we dutifully vacuum up the chaos until the next day.
Now I’m thinking he might be ready for his first pet that is all his own.
Through my research — OK, extensive Googling, really — I learned that having a pet can be quite beneficial for developing children’s social skills. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says having pets for children helps develop self-esteem and self-confidence and can aid in creating trusting relationships with others. There also are indicators that say having pets around children helps little ones develop non-verbal communication, compassion and empathy.
But what kind of pet would be good for a 3-year-old? On a recent trip to Meijer, inspiration hit: a goldfish. I can imagine it now — little Goldie swimming around, my tot gently pinching in the fish flakes, him whispering his childhood secrets to his finned friend.
In reality, it will be more like him dumping an entire container of flakes into the bowl and yelling for Goldie to do more than just swim — and I can only imagine how many Goldies we will go through to keep up the charade.
It’s a small price to pay for boosting your kid’s self-esteem, right? How hard can one more pet be (whimper)?
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SentinelLeach.