Saturday, May 31, 2008

A lesson learned

Every parent hopes that they will be able to teach their children valuable lessons to take with them throughout their lives. Sometimes we are able to take things that happen to our children and turn them into lessons that will teach them a little about life. This happened just the other day in our household.

When Haley was 5, she desperately wanted a cat. Being an animal lover, I relented and we brought Murphy into our home. He was an easy going cat. Things went well until I became pregnant and Murphy became a permanent outside cat due to the whole litter box changing issue. Even after the birth of Harrison, Murphy preferred the outdoors and eventually we stopped trying to bring him inside.

Since Murphy is Haley's cat, feeding him has always been her responsibility. Over the past few years, she has had to be constantly reminded to take care of the cat. She hardly ever pays him any attention and the cat is lucky he gets fed.

So a month or so ago, we noticed that Murphy was showing up less and less to be fed. As it turns out, the little girl next door has taken a liking to Murphy and has apparently been feeding him. On several occasions, Haley has called him and looked out to see the little girl sitting on her deck holding Murphy so that he can't come. This made Haley very unhappy.

The other night, when Haley called, Murphy came running and when Haley tried to pick him up, he took off back to the next door neighbors house. So Haley came inside crying and carrying on about how that little girl next door was a brat and she was being spiteful trying to keep Murphy.

I sat Haley down and I looked at her and I said "What would happen if everyday I got up and went about my business and totally ignored you? And what if at dinner time I threw your plate on the table and didn't even talk to you? And what if, I never hugged you or cuddled with you or did nice things for you? Wouldn't you want to go and live somewhere else?"

I told her if I were Murphy, I would choose that little girl because even if she was being spiteful, at least she was showing me attention. I explained to her that every relationship, even one with a pet, has to be nurtured. There has to be love and devotion and giving and caring. Otherwise, the relationship would wither and die.

Of course Haley tried to make a million excuses but I think when it came right down to it, she realized that what I said was true. She seems a little less upset by the whole situation.

We have left it up to her as to what the next step will be. If she wants Murphy to be her cat again, she knows what needs to be done. It's a mess she created and I think she is big enough to handle it on her own.

One day, maybe she'll look back on this and think about the lesson she learned. And hopefully it will help her to grow up to be a better person.