My daughter has a special passion for those things bright and small. And large and cumbersome and fluffed out and sleek and scaled and all the other adjectives you can apply to the animal kingdom. It's her calling, as far as a five-year-old can have a calling, and I've always known her getting her very first her-own print would be a big day.
And, apparently, when your mama is in training to become a Montessori teacher and just spent some time touring the classrooms full of the sweetest of class pets, and you've had these discussions of stewardship, then you might stumble into a conversation with your daughter about your own class pets and might somehow transition into her very own first pet--I don't know where the turn came. I think it might have been when we started watching guinea pig videos--when she asked what they were, so I asked Ryan to look it up, and suddenly we were calling a pet shop to make certain those sweet critters were, you know, around.
This fellow is named Max, and he's a bearded dragon, and he's actually mainly Finn's pet. His full name is Heartsy Love Max, because Maya calls everything Heartsy Love and Finn's begun adopting that name. And Max is the name of his imaginary friend.
Ryan told Maya that if she read to her friend, it could become a reading companion--that her little critter loved being read to. This was after I told her all about the Flemish rabbit that roams the Children's House and is read to by the children. We were hoping, you know, a nudge. It worked!
It just was Finnegan who went straight to the bookcase to get some books to read to the new pets. What sweet little voices he used too.
Maya's new friend is a guinea pig she named Luna. Luna is a boy, but Luna doesn't mind so much.
Luna makes this wonderful yerp yerp yerp noise which I think seems to mean contentment. He kept cuddling into Maya's lap, nesting in, peeking up, snuggling.
The guinea pig is 100% her responsibility with a little side-kicking built in. We make sure all the things happen, but when Grandma asked her, "Who's going to take care of the poop and all the bedding?" Maya pointed at herself. Before we went to the store, I sat her down and said, "OK, you get that this is your pet. You choose it--you pick which one, you pick what you want to go with it, you pick where it goes--though it has to be somewhere in your bedroom, you name it. You're its mama, in a way. So you will have to make sure he's fed and has water and you have to take it out every day and love it. It needs attention too. Are you ready to take this on?"
She feels quite serious about this task now, so the work, from our part, is helping maintain the momentum. After all, this is a thrilling new addition to our home, both pets (Finn didn't get "the talk" because we are co-parenting in this case--I let him name him just the same and we are trying to acclimate the bearded dragon to him as well, but I do know that I am the caretaker and we aren't communicating the same things to Finn as we are to Maya--he's three, she's five).
Maya didn't want to fall asleep tonight. She didn't want to put Luna back in his little hutch. I told Maya the story of the night she was finally born--after 42 hours of labor, she was in the world, nearly ten o'clock at night, and I wasn't about to surrender her to the bassinet, so we became instant co-sleepers, and from that night on, she never slept in a crib, save one strange afternoon nap in which Ryan got her to sleep and slipped her in. But every other attempt, even in the co-sleeper, was loudly rejected, and we let it be. I know attachment parenting doesn't gel with the Montessori inclination towards independence, but there are places in my parenting where I will deviate, and I'm going to make peace with that.
For now, she can look down from her bunk and see the soft sweet form that is Luna, and I am going to hope like heck that her little brother doesn't lift the latches and let him out because who knows where that little guinea pig will scurry if given the chance! It'll take a while before he realizes this is his special space, that this is the safe space we have set up for him. It's hard to understand that with little kids in the room, but it's an important skill for my children, for any children--developing that respect for the act of stewardship not through lectures but from authentic experiences in their own lives.