When our children were much younger, we had a large collection of pets of various kinds ranging from small caged critters to larger animals, such as llamas and goats. For my own well-being we’ve scaled down A LOT, and for the last five years or so I’ve confidently declared “NO MORE CAGED ANIMALS!”, because although I never desired a bunny, guess who ended up being the primary caretaker of the bunnies…
However, even with all the work, this “farm” type lifestyle engrained many wonderful memories into our family.
At one time we even had a couple of hamsters. Initially, they started out in two different cages until “we” thought they might be lonely. My memory fails to remember all the details of the complete nature of these two hamsters’ relationship or how they behaved with each other, but I do remember clearly one day deciding to clean the cage, whereas I picked up one of the hamsters to move her out of the way, and low and behold, a single tiny pink peanut of a newborn baby hamster rested warmly underneath her. Naturally, I dropped the Momma hamster and screamed. I had no idea what this tiny pink hairless thing was at first, but slowly it all made sense.
I must have read somewhere to separate Mom and Dad, so we did that. But even so, within a day or two we noticed odd behavior with Momma hamster: she was very active, but newborn baby hamster was totally still. Alive, but it was clear from Momma hamster’s behavior that something wasn’t right. She would pick up baby hamster by her teeth, carry it to the other side of the cage, drop it, then repeat that same action over and over again covering the entire area of the cage. Our hearts broke as we realized by all this movement and action, which literally was non-stop effort for 48 hours, she was trying to encourage life in her tiny pink baby. “Move!” Her motions screamed. “Eat!” As whatever milk substance Momma hamsters produce likely swelled inside of her. “Live!” Her Momma heart obviously demonstrated with her frantic attempts to wake her baby. All her instincts compounded, and she was single-minded for a time, because her job was to nurture this baby into an independent hamster, and baby wasn’t cooperating.
Then baby hamster died. And she ate it. I know, so weird. Such odd behavior. But such is the animal kingdom sometimes.
I was so moved and impressed by this insignificant tiny animal’s maternal instincts that we decided she just had to be a mother. So, we brought Daddy hamster back in to her cage hoping the cohabitation would create a family. Reproduction in the animal kingdom occurs quickly. Within less than a month, Momma hamster had birthed, not one pink hairless peanut, but five totally healthy tiny pink hairless peanuts. And suddenly, it was like a hamster circus. Momma hamster needed to keep her little ones warm, so she used her own body as insulation. But as they RAPIDLY grew, they were not interested in staying still under her warmth, they were too curious and active for that. Literally, Momma hamster spent all her time catching them with her teeth and moving them underneath her, but just when she would place one, another would scurry to freedom and bolt around the cage. Little did we know that small baby hamsters also want to leave the cage, and can climb through the wires, until we were finding baby hamsters in the bathtub (totally safe and alive), and under the oven and other various places. We, like Momma hamster, were chasing these babies all over the house. It’s amazing they all survived and the whole process was totally hilarious. I have spent my life feeling like this Momma hamster as my kiddos keep growing, running, climbing, and making plans faster than I can keep track of them all. When all I want to do is keep them safely tucked underneath the warmth of all my instincts.
My Boy turned eighteen this week. The night of his birthday as we laid in bed, Hubby asked me if I cried. He knows my predictable sensitivity well, and the years that have led up to our babies reaching various monumental ages have often had some private tears associated with them, because not for one minute was I in denial about how quickly the time of raising our children passes. Yet, instead of mourning and grief at this year’s reality, it sincerely felt like a celebration. I’m so proud of him and the man he is, and so proud of us as well since we messed up oh so many times, but managed to create a fully functioning, responsible, (mostly) adult human being. He is an amazing big brother, a loyal friend, an incredible son, and a remarkable person. BUT, I’m not done being his mom. I’m not checking out. This milestone represents, not merely one single event because he’s officially a legal adult, but rather, about ten million things. How we nurtured, how he grew, how we loved, how he loves, how we taught, how he learned, and how to function and survive in this really tough world. Sometimes I want to control everything. I don’t want them to hurt. I don’t want them to rebel or make choices I don’t like. I don’t always want them to stay the same, but neither do I want them to change too much. Though, the truth is, this process is changing me too. Although I want to shout “Move!”, “Eat!”, “Live”, I know part of being an adult is their desire to flee my grasp. To bolt into new experiences, and to grow, and just keep growing.
We’re never done, Moms. Even though sometimes it seems we are, I’m figuring out it just starts over in a new way. Like a hamster momma, after childbirth, it’s simply the way we’re wired; instinctively we are mothers for life, trying to accept that the area of their freedom just keeps getting bigger, even when all we want to do is catch em’ with our teeth and tuck em’ underneath us.
And now it’s time once again for me to do some more learning about how to do this parenting thing, even after all these years of experience, because big or small, young or old, they’re stuck with me because love is never done. Mommas always be mommas.
“A time to embrace, and a time to refrain…” suddenly has new meaning.