I’m talking bunnies. A cute little white one with a light brown patch on its back and a light brown one with a little white mark on its crown. Both very fluffy and the white one even has bright pink ears from all this heat. My girls really, really want bunnies. And when I asked in the pet shop while I was buying goodies for our beagle, it was more to ease my conscience. I didn’t expect that the assistant would say, “Yes, we do have two bunnies that are ready to leave today!” And then I expected even less that I would fall in love with their sweet fluffiness, floppy ears and all.
Now, I know, EVERYone has told me: DON’T, for all sorts of reasons – rabbits live for a long time (up to 10 years and beyond), and you can’t really do much with rabbits; they’re just there. Always. Even when you go on holiday, which means a lot of organising and phone calls that all inevitably falls onto Mummy, as the kids soon get back into being busy about their after-school life. Then there’s the reality of natural predators: foxes and martens and a gang of badgers that are storming the neighbourhood at night. I’m not sure how I feel about waking up to a decapitated rabbit, sucked dry (apparently Martens have vampiric habits) and removing it before the kids come down.
So, what do I do? And in fact, why do I even bother to think it’s an option? I know it’s a silly idea. But still, when I see them – we’ve visited the pet shop a few times – why is it that I want them so badly? Is the heat playing with my mind? Is it the wave of nostalgia I’ve been feeling because my oldest has just turned sixteen and this is my last chance at providing a happy ‘little house on the prairie’ family home, for my girls at least, as long as they’re still – well, girls, rabbits and all? Or is it simply hormones trying to tell me that I want another baby? (My youngest would also be OK with a baby sister, just like the one her best friend just got; that would let me off the hook for rabbits.)
When I was a child we never had pets until I was a teenager and we moved to Holland. We knew we’d be staying for a number of years, so my mother took the opportunity, while my father was on a business trip, and brought our gorgeous, light ginger kitten with four white paws home on a wet Sunday night. Sunday White-socks lived for eighteen years, and how we all loved her. What a perfect way to teach us to become responsible!
But who fed her? And brought her to the vet? I remember taking her on her first walk around the neighbourhood on a long string, but I don’t remember feeding her. I remember her sneaking into my room at night and rolling up under my duvet by my feet and purring both herself and me to sleep. But I don’t remember ever taking her to the vet.
And of course, we all know “Whodunit?” – Mummy! I wonder if it’s a cultural thing, this idea of wanting without doing anything to attain it. As if we simply have the right to pets and more pets and toys and trips to the farthest, craziest places on earth. Growing up as an expat is probably what made travelling the norm for me, along with the advantages that go with it, like the feeling that there are no limits to what is out there and available.
In contrast, when I worked as a volunteer on a Turtle Conservation Project in Sri Lanka, we lived in a rural village. I noticed the children, who of course had a hugely limited amount of “things” and never seemed to demand that they wanted this that or the other. I noticed that they were inquisitive and showed great joy when, for example, they found an old TV set that one of the fathers connected to a generator, so that all the kids in the village could watch all 20 minutes of “Ivanhoe” once a week. And they grew up looking after their younger siblings and helping their mums in the kitchen, so they didn’t need pets to learn responsibility – it was part of their lives.
Whatever the reason – culture, social background, beliefs – shouldn’t there be a point in our education where we show our kids that wanting is fair enough, it’s OK to want, but it’s also very OK to have a new look at what you already have and maybe enjoy that all over again. Like the fact that we have a beagle, and yes, he is six now and does have a bad back, but he still likes to play the “sniffing game”! And no, I’m not having another baby. Three’s a pretty decent number, I’d say, even though they are so cute and cuddly.
By Karin Mohler
Karin is a former expat, having settled down in her native Switzerland after a childhood abroad. She is challenged daily with balancing the peculiarities she picked up on her travels and integrating them in daily life in what is supposed to be her homeland. Her three children aged 16, 14 and 10 help her bridge the gap in understanding the culture she is now living in. Failing that, she gains insight and inspiration from the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, by D. C. Pollock and R. v. Reken (2009).
Illustration by Masha Ellis
Masha works as a product manager in the finance industry during the day and dedicates her spare time to art, cooking and her traditional nutrition blog. She is Australian with Ukranian roots and now lives near Lake Zurich with her little girl. To find out more, follow her on Facebook or visit her blog.