We Got a New Rat

I am sure there are some of you out there that think I must have gotten the title of this blog wrong.  You might be saying to yourself, she must have gotten a new hat or maybe she got a new cat.  No, the title is right.  We got a new rat.  The furry haired varmints that people years ago would set traps for or make a phone call to pest control.  We have willingly taken on this creature, and I have to admit I am quite enamored with her.  We named her Charlotte.  How the event unfolded I feel was a God thing.  I feel odd aligning God’s will with a rat, but let me tell you the story and you might agree.

Nathan, our 11 year old son, for two out of the past three years of school has had rats in the classroom.  I have observed and heard how much he liked the rats and how cute they were.  Something akin to a motherly instinct would come out when he talked about them.

We have been struggling with him and his behavior lately.  Nothing really new for us as parents, but just an emerging awareness that he needed to step up in his responsibilities.  We wanted him to see what needed to be done and do it before being asked.  We wanted him to follow through with tasks.  Surely this goes on in other houses other than mine!

In the midst of these parenting struggles, I happened to be at the mall in the pet store.  I was roaming around the store with my friend’s kids.  We first stopped at the rabbits to pet them.  I thought about how my husband raised rabbits when he was a boy.  I remembered him telling me stories of getting up really early in the morning before school to feed the rabbits and how much responsibility it had taught him.  I started to think about our own son.  Rabbits were out due to allergies.  I began to think about the rats that Nathan had had in his classrooms.  The more I thought about it the more I began to wonder if taking care of something other than himself would teach him responsibility and would be something he would enjoy.  I began to look around the store.  How much was a cage, food, an exercise wheel, etc.  I went home with this seed of an idea in my head not really planning on sharing it with anyone, at least not yet.

I had not said a word to anyone about my idea.  Nathan came home that same day after school and shares that the mommy rat and the daddy rat in his classroom had 14 rat babies.  He said that his teacher was asking if anyone wanted a rat to keep as a pet.  I stood there almost in shock.  I told him about my day at the pet store, and he was amazed.  Had God prepared my heart to grow this child of mine with this experience in some way?  I couldn’t help but think this was a God thing.

Well, we agreed to the rat.  We came up with a written contract which Mom, Dad, & Nathan signed which stated what his financial part would be when buying items for the rat.  Mom and Dad agreed to buy the food, but he would contribute $5 for any other item purchased for the rat such as an exercise ball or a cage.  He would clean out the cage every weekend and give Charlotte fresh food and water.

Nathan holding his new pet rat, Charlotte

The first few weekends we had to walk him through the cleaning of the cage process.  The first weekend he cleaned the cage out in the garage, but left wood chips scattered everywhere which quite a few were tracked back into the house.  The next weekend Carl showed him how to use the shop vac to vacuum up the chips.  The next weekend he forgot to fill up the food bowl. 

It’s hard to keep a straight face when your neck is being tickled!

This weekend I had just gotten up and out of the bed.  I heard sounds in the garage.  Could Nathan have gotten up and be cleaning out the cage without being asked?  I journeyed down the stairs to see.  He was in the garage scooping the dirty wood chips into a plastic sack.  Later, I heard the shop vac.  He came upstairs and said he was done.  Well, my son’s idea of done and my idea of done do not always line up.  His idea of done when cleaning the toilet means he wiped down the lid and the seat, but he didn’t scrub inside the bowl or wipe down the sides or the front.  I expected a not followed through with job when I got downstairs.  There was Charlotte in her cage with clean wood chips, full water, and food.  I went out to the garage to see a clean floor, a dirty bag of wood chips in the garbage can, the shop vac put away, and the extension cord hung up. I then asked if he had washed his hands.  He said he had.  I grabbed his hands to praise him for a job well done, and his hands were still damp from the washing.  I was thrilled and praised him profusely.

Ahh, there is the tickled giggle!

I could have not been more thrilled.  He showed initiative.  He showed care for something other than himself.  He showed responsibility.  Who would have thought a rat could teach him all that?  It doesn’t hurt that she is pretty stinking cute, either.

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