Pets and kids. Need I say more?
Yes, we have pets in our home — two obese and adorable cats. We had pets who are now in animal heaven: countless goldfish (floaters) and one dog.
Our beloved miniature schnauzer, Heidi. When the faithful pooch died, nearly broke my heart, it did. Almost enough to make me long for a pet-free home forever. Almost.
As the months wore on, the cacophony of pet pleas began to get louder: "Mommy, can I have a ___?" (dog, cat, rat, bird, pony - fill in the blank).
Most kids love pets. And despite our sadness in losing Heidi, my kids still loved pets. My kids are probably a lot like yours - given their druthers, every nook and cranny of the house and yard would be filled with pets.
Still, like most parents, I assumed I would end up feeding and taking care of said pets. Therefore, the answer to the above question was usually a resounding "No!"
And so it was in our house - until a year had passed. Once you get over the heartbreak of observing a pet's lifecycle, you don't have to be Dr. Doolittle to realize that pet ownership offers many benefits for kids.
Pet therapy in hospitals and nursing homes has demonstrated how animals can lift people's spirits. It worked in my home once more after I finally gave in to the kids, and we adopted a pair of calico sister cats.
This time, however, I made sure the kids knew that they had to be an active part of our new pets' life, from care and feeding to cleaning the icky litter box. And guess what? Making the kids responsible for an animal's care - conditional on adopting said animal - provided the incentive needed.
Our cats indeed became a family pet - and we were once again a pet family - with everyone involved in their care. It can work in your home, too.