I think Sophia is finally coming to terms with the fact that the shop is closed. For good.
“Look!” I said pointing out my car window to the right. “It’s a store just for exotic fish.” The tanks are glowing with cobalt light.
“Oooh. Cool.” Her head swivels as we pass the store, trying to keep it in view.
I stop at a light and she says, “Mommy?”
“Can I get a pet fish?”
“You want a pet fish?”
“Why do you want a pet fish?” I ask, rather than just shoot the request down. She delivers the answer, which tears off a tiny corner of my heart:
“So there can be more in our family.”
She’s stopped asking for a sibling. I haven’t heard the request in weeks. She’s lowered the bar hoping that something small and scaley, or short and furry will wend it’s way into our lives.
I have mixed feelings about this resolution. On the one hand, I’m glad that she has heard what I’ve had to say on the subject, gets it, and appears to be fairly unscathed. On the other, I feel a great deal of sympathy for her desire to have a live-in pal. My heart aches every time she brings up the subject. I wish I could give her what she wants, without it coming into conflict with what Kevin and I have decided.
A couple days later, at dinner Sophie suddenly announced, “I think I’m finally mature enough to have a cat.”
“Oh really?” I say, raising an eyebrow. Well, actually both of them. I can’t raise just one, but I wish I could.
Kevin, across the table, raised one eyebrow.
“Yeah. I take care of grandma’s cats. I feed them all the time.” It’s true. She is very good about feeding them. She loves to do it, and, in fact, often remembers when my mother doesn’t. But feeding them is a once-a-week treat, not daily drudgery.
“There’s more to taking care of a cat than feeding them,” I inform her. “What about their poops?”
Her eyes get wide.
“You have to scoop their poops and clean their litter box.” She had not considered this. Sophie has an aversion to anything with a strong smell. She can’t make it through the cheese department at Wegman’s without holding her nose.
“Could you help me with that, Mom?”
“That,” I say, “is a slippery slope. I would….support you in it.”
“Does that mean you would scoop their poops?”
“No, honey, I’ve scooped enough cat poop in my time. Until you are ready to do that, I don’t think you’re ready to accept the full responsibility of caring for a cat.”
I was five when I got my first cat. I swore up and down I would care for it. But it was my mother who, day in and day out, cleaned the litter box, filled their bowls, and picked cat hair off of everything. I know how this works. I’ve sat in Sophie’s seat. And I know, for sure, that, as the mother of a five-year-old, I am not ready to accept the full responsibility of caring for a cat.
Sophie gasps. “I just thought of something!” (She has learned this from me, a habit of gasping when she has a sudden epiphany, though mine are usually around forgetting appointments or losing my keys).
“Well, if we had a cat and you and daddy went to work all day and I went to school, the cat would be lonely.” It was a lovely, sympathetic sentiment, but was she doing what we often do when we can’t have something we previously thought we wanted? We devalue it. We find rationales for why it would be no good for us. Was she already trying to let go of this wish?
“Mmmm. True. I guess that’s why grandma and grandpa have two cats.” Did I just say that out loud? Where can I buy myself a filter?
“Oh! Right! We could get two cats.” She looks at our faces. “When I’m older. Like seven or nine.”
“Yes, maybe by seven or nine,” I agree.
One day, when we are all ready, she shall have more.