When I got home from work at lunch time I had planned to change the bedding in the hamster cages. The boys got a hamster each late last year and naturally the cleaning of the cages quickly became my responsibility.
They always sleep during the day so it was no surprise that neither of them were moving, but as I picked up the cage which housed Louis’ pet – Speedy Frank – it soon became apparent that he wasn’t going to be doing any moving ever again.
Despite having seen Speedy Frank on his wheel last night and knowing that he had food and water and that he was well housed, I felt instantly guilty. Was he unwell and I hadn’t noticed? Had I used the wrong type of bedding? Is this food a good one for hamsters?
More importantly – what was I going to tell my 8 year old son? He’d only had Speedy Frank for three months.
I automatically carried out the completely pointless exercise of massaging Speedy Frank’s little body. He wasn’t all that cold – maybe it wasn’t too late? Of course, it was too late.
So what does a good parent do in a situation like this? What were my options now?
I could either:
- tell the truth
- say he got out and I can’t find him
- replace him and hope Louis won’t notice
I narrowed them down, considered each avenue and ultimately decided to lie through my teeth.
I’d go and buy another one. One just like Speedy Frank, from the same pet shop. I bet they breed the same line of Syrian Hamster all the time – there was bound to be a similar one. An hour before school finishes – that’ll give me plenty of time.
I got to the pet shop and scanned all the Syrian hamsters. There were plenty in stock thank goodness, though there was a small problem.
- white hamsters
- ginger hamsters
- creamy coloured hamsters
- bright pink with teal polka-dot hamsters*
but none like Speedy Frank.
Something else occurred to me too – they were all tiny! This wasn’t going to work.
And so dawned the realisation that in 45 minutes I would have no option but to make my boy cry. I would have to tell him before we got home, so I would tell him in the car. I called at the shop, bought his favourite chocolate bar and some overpriced piece of tat masquerading as a small toy, and made my way to school.
Once he was safely collected, I sat next to him in the back of the car and prepared to tell the truth. Except that’s not exactly how it came out. I heard myself saying that Speedy Frank had been poorly so I’d taken him to the vet who had given him some medicine. Unfortunately, the medicine didn’t work and Speedy Frank died.
I blamed the vet.
Louis took it surprisingly well. He immediately said ‘but I looked after him!’ so we talked about how sometimes these things happen for reasons we will never know. Then he said ‘we need to get home mum, I’ve got football tonight’, and that was that!
Three hours I spent trying to replace that hamster/get my story straight/be racked with guilt, and the boy took the death of his hamster better than I did!
Well rest in peace Speedy Frank – I’ll miss you at least!
*The polka-dot hamsters may be fictional