Cheddar

In our family, the number of kids in the house is a direct indicator of how many different opinions you’ll find on any given topic. I’m pretty sure no matter how many kids you have, they’d all have a different take on things.

The loyalties and alliances among my kids are always changing, but their reactions and choices are almost always predictable. None of them are pushovers and sometimes it leads to some pretty heated disagreements, but I can tell you before an argument starts where each of them will chime in because I know their personalities.

In fact, I can put my kids in order by personality: Dylan, Wyatt, Alyssa, or in some cases: Alyssa, Wyatt, Dylan.

This might not make a lot of sense on the face of it, but it works on so many different spectrums: introvert to extrovert; sensitivity, grouchiness, loudness, how much time they would spend on devices if they had unlimited technology time, how much they enjoy school, even hatred of broccoli. This ordering system almost always works. Give me a trait or belief and I can give you a most to least breakdown. Dylan and Alyssa will always be on the opposite ends of the spectrum, and Wyatt will be somewhere in the middle.

Well, he’s somewhere in the middle unless you’re talking about one-eyed cats, and then the whole system goes haywire.

Last night we went to Petco just to look at the animals, although I expressly stated before we went that we would NOT be bringing home any new pets.

Almost as soon as we got there, I wished we hadn’t gone.

Wyatt: Can I have a fish?

Me: No.

Wyatt: Can I have a ferret?

Me: They’re $150!

Wyatt: Can we please have a mouse?

Me: I set traps for mice.

Alyssa: I want a chameleon!

Me: No.

Alyssa: What if we just get a hermit crab. I looooove hermit crabs.

Me: The last hermit crabs we had died.

Alyssa: That was your fault.

Me: … I want to go home.

Wyatt: But I just want a little fish. It’s just a little fish!

Before I could get them out the door, Dylan suggested we look at the animals that were up for adoption.

They had one kitten named Cheddar, and the poor thing only had one eye. It looked a lot like this:

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This isn’t Cheddar. Cheddar was actually much cuter and even more pitiful. This kitty’s photo was taken by tjflex2 and can be found here on Flickr under the Creative Commons license. But you get the idea. Poor little thing.

Cheddar meowed and put his little paw up to the cage, and Alyssa was in love. She immediately wanted to take him home. She wasn’t deterred because he only had one eye. In fact, it made her want him more because she was sure no one else would ever adopt him. “Please, please can we take him home?” she asked, “He needs us!”

Dylan couldn’t stop pondering over what terrible thing had happened that would cause him to lose an eye, and Wyatt just stared at Cheddar with a wrinkled nose. All the while, Alyssa was still tugging on my arm trying to convince me of the dire future Cheddar would face if we didn’t adopt him.

Since I had said ‘no’ approximately 578 times in the previous half hour, I took the easy way out. “If Daddy says yes, we’ll adopt Cheddar,” I said, “Now let’s go.”

We left, but the Cheddar conversation kept going. They talked, and I listened. Alyssa wanted to be sure they were all on the same page when they went to their daddy. She started walking backwards to face them so she could have their full attention. “We have to adopt Cheddar, he only has one eye. If we don’t, he may never get adopted. You want Cheddar too, right?” she asked her brothers.

Wyatt took no pause. “I do not want a one-eyed cat!”

Alyssa was visibly surprised. But she is a master at building a unified front, and she wasn’t giving up. She quickly turned her attention to Dylan. “But you want Cheddar, right? Cheddar needs us.”

Dylan looked uncomfortable. “I don’t know,” he said. “It kind of bothers me that he only has one eye, but… I feel bad saying it. That sort of makes me want to adopt him. He makes me feel bad.”

They may have just been debating the ins and outs of having a one-eyed cat running around the house, but I heard a much more important conversation — one about empathy, and understanding, and being accepting of things that are different than what they’re used to. My normally least compassionate kid was overwhelmed by a need to help, and my very empathetic kid was torn, wanting to help but bothered because he couldn’t stop dwelling on what bad circumstance had turned Cheddar into a one-eyed cat. Meanwhile, my middle-of-the-road kid had taken a stand because his intense need for symmetry — at least for now — is too much to overcome, even if it means getting a new pet.

As I listened to them discussing their very different views on adopting Cheddar, I learned something about my children: they aren’t as predictable as I thought.

You know what? Kids are always growing and changing. They are constantly examining ideas and continuously honing their reasoning skills. They are forming beliefs and values that will carry into adulthood, and the learning experiences that are the building blocks for who they become are hidden everywhere — even at Petco where there’s a one-eyed kitten named Cheddar.

Are you looking for a new pet? Cheddar can be found at the Westchester Commons Petco in Midlothian, and is available for adoption through the St. Francis Humane Association. (Of course, if Matt says yes, you'll have to choose one of the other beauties found at SFHA.) 

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