No, not that talk--we've had that talk for years, in fits and starts, as part of normal conversation like the experts recommend, with nary a mention of birds or bees. No, we've been having the conversation that starts out like this:
D-O: Mom, can I get a puppy?
MM: Um, no.
D-O: Well, will you at least consider it?
MM: No, I will not "at least consider it."
Turns out a friend down the street has a mama dog who had nine (count 'em, nine) puppies--speaking of someone (or some dog) who needed to hear That Talk.
I'd like to make it clear that Daughter-Only isn't one of those pet-deprived children who have never had the joy of a "companion animal" and all the lessons about responsibility they can teach a child. (Or, more likely, the lessons they can teach the child's parents when the novelty wears off.) We had a dog for years and years--the first nine years of Daughter-Only's life, in fact.
Daughter-Only's infancy, toddlerhood and most of her childhood were overseen by Sydney, our border collie/Australian shepherd mix. Sydney was twelve years old when she died in March 2003--a sixty-pound lapdog who even now I think of so often that she's almost a physical presence in our lives.
(So much so that my Baby Brother had his dog over here the other day and I casually tossed him (the dog, not the brother) a bit of food from my plate, like I used to do with Sydney. Sydney would catch whatever it was in mid-air even when she seemed not to be paying the slightest bit of attention. Baby Brother's dog, however, merely looked at me like I had completely lost my mind. The tidbit of whatever it was bounced off his doggy nose and landed on the floor where he delicately nibbled it up from the carpet. Poor dog--having to tolerate a demented "aunt.")
So we've been dogless a few years, but not petless--we have six ferrets--only four of whom we actually purchased and two of whom were hand-me-downs from families who couldn't continue to care for them. These ferrets have the run of the house for the most part and though they sleep eighteen to twenty hours a day those other four to six hours are full to the brim with mischief--highly entertaining mischief, but mischief nonetheless. Point being, not only does Daughter-Only already have the joy of a pet she has, and mostly willingly, takes, a share of responsibility for said pet(s), which makes saying "no" both easier and harder.
I'm not concerned that the burden of caring for the puppy will fall on me because, frankly, I'm not that kind of mom. The worst that's going to happen is the burden of nagging them to take care of the puppy is going to fall on me--I'm not one of those moms who will break down and do the work because it's easier than arguing. I'd like to pretend it's some sort of "tough-love-this-is-how-I-teach-them-responsibility" stance, but really? I'm just way too lazy to pick up that slack.
Daughter-Only has really pulled out all the stops on this one. On the way out the door to the grocery store, I said, "Do you want anything?" And she said, "I don't want anything except a puppy." She has tried the high pressure technique of saying she has to have an answer right now because "her" puppy might get taken--because there's such a stampede for free puppies, right? That one was not effective the first time and has only gotten less effective as time passes and "her" puppy--and its eight litter mates--remain unclaimed.
She even interrupted me mid-dart game last Saturday night with, "Can you come outside for a minute?" Frustrated by my refusal to go "at least see" the puppies, she brought some of the puppies to me. Cranky Boss Lady said, "Why is she stressing so much, doesn't she know you're going to cave and let her get a puppy?"
The puppies are old enough to leave their mom this coming Tuesday. Daughter-Only hasn't mentioned it to me in two days--I was breathing a sigh of relief, but just to be sure, I said to Hubby, "Has she mentioned the puppy thing to you?"
He rolled his eyes and said, "Of course."
I said, "Well, she hasn't said anything to me in two days."
He said, "Of course not--she knows who's on her side on this one."
Exasperated, I said, "I just don't think getting a puppy right now is a good idea."
He said, "Me neither. A puppy would be very lonely without a companion."
I said, "A companion!? We're so not getting two puppies!"
So much for a unified front, huh?