Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Because I didn’t have enough to do already…

on January 17, 2015

I was never sure guinea pigs would be a good idea.  And when they first arrived home, it seemed that they really weren’t.  They hated being picked up, and ran away every time I tried.  And when Small Girl tried to hold hers, she cried and said he had bitten her.  But slowly, with lots of advice from friends, they are getting used to us, and we are getting used to them.  And I’ve decided I quite like owning guinea pigs.

Lucy

Lucy

Firstly, it satisfies my need to do things in the most complicated way possible.  I like to research my plans on the internet.  And whatever pet you choose, there is always someone out who will tell you that the conventional way of doing things is not good enough.  I like to feel sure that I’m doing the very best I can at all times.  So, rather than buying a cage from a pet shop, I have made my own monster C&C cage which takes up a considerable amount of floor space.  On the one hand, this did take quite a lot of effort and anxiety and, as I am not particularly skilled at, well, most things, I’m not sure how long it will last.  On the other hand, being 150 cm by 70 cm, my guinea pigs have lots of room, and it only cost about £25 to make.  And because woodshavings contain dust which can irritate some poor piggies’ chests, I’m trying every single type of bedding available.  Just to be safe.  This is satisfying my inner geek considerably, and using up bits of spare brain energy which might otherwise be busy worrying unproductively about whether my children are eating enough vegetables and the state of the ice caps.

Secondly, they make my children happy.  Big Girl has Lucy, a chocolate-coloured guinea pig who is technically male, but we pretend is female because (a) Big Girl still prefers girls and if she absolutely couldn’t have a rabbit then she definitely wanted a female guinea pig, and (b) I couldn’t tolerate the cognitive dissonance of calling it Lucy but referring to it as ‘he’.  Small Girl has Nemo, who we can all agree is male.  Small Girl runs into the kitchen excitedly to tell me which guinea pig she has just seen and what they were doing.  They are learning to be patient, and to consider the guinea pigs’ needs, and to take care of them.  And every evening when we take them out of their cage to be cuddled, I get to have a calm conversation with each of my children while they are settled quietly stroking their pets.  Already it is becoming a special part of my day.

Nemo

Nemo

But the main thing I love about having guinea pigs is the experience of being responsible for something so undemanding, with such low stakes.  I like watching my pigs eating vegetables and seeing what they enjoy, but if they don’t eat it, I don’t get anxious about their diet.  I make sure they get cuddled but I don’t worry about whether they are going to be emotionally damaged by the way I look after them.  Although I’m still having anxiety dreams about them getting out of their cage and running round my bedroom, this is unlikely to happen, and it really wouldn’t be the end of the world if it did.  They don’t ask for snacks five minutes before dinner.  And if they did, I’d just say no, and they (probably) wouldn’t cry about it.  Instead of spending hours putting them to bed while I also need to be getting their school uniforms ready, loading the dishwasher and hanging up laundry, and feeling anxious about whether I should be helping them to learn to go to sleep by themselves, and feeling frustrated that they just won’t stay in bed, I put the lid on their cage, and it’s done.  I do not worry about whether they are fulfilling their potential and whether I am doing everything I can to make this happen (short answer: no, I am checking Facebook and watching West Wing).  Sometimes they poo on the floor and this is normal and to be expected rather than something I need to help them to stop doing.  I don’t need to encourage them to be kind to each other if they fall out, and they never tell me that it isn’t fair.  I don’t worry about whether they feel loved enough, or about how they behave when we’re in public, or deal with tantrums, or try to make sure they get enough exercise.  If I want to cuddle them, I do, and when I’ve finished I stop, and there’s no arguing about it.  The worst thing that will happen is that, at some point, they will die.  I’ll do my best to make sure it isn’t for quite a while, but we’ll all get over it.  Compared to the impact my choices have on my children now and into the future, and to some of the stress I experience at work, guinea pigs are bliss.

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