I want to say upfront that I love my son.
We make a great team. He is three years old, and so much fun to be around. I’d like to say we’re well matched intellectually, but he totally has my number on that one.
We have a lot in common though; a love of watching television, eating pizza, blowing lemonade through a straw and laughing as the bubbles shoot up our noses, and best of all, we enjoy each other’s company. I know I enjoy his.
However, I haven’t always been such a fulfilled human being. There was a time when I believed just having a loving home, a beautiful partner, and a son to share it with was all the hard work, I mean fulfilment I needed. But apparently to truly soak up the bona-fide family experience, we needed more fulfilment.
And as luck would have it, around six weeks ago, my son was offered a pet rabbit. It was covered in fluffy white fur, with long floppy ears, a wiggly pink nose, and mischievous dark eyes.
I remember thinking this could be trouble. She’ll be poopin’ all over the place. Not to mention the devastation she’d cause, plus the cost of feeding and housing her.
Geez, I thought; who would want such a troublesome creature?
“She’s cool,” my son, who I love, announced excitedly.
“No way,” I said.
The bunny moved in that night.
Except we weren’t equipped to house such an adorable creature, and by morning, ‘Buffy’, the fluffy white bunny with floppy ears, little pink nose, and the snapping jaws of a salt water crocodile, had torn through two pairs of shoes, my favourite shirt, and gnawed through half the shed.
My thoughts raced back to my own childhood, and my dad, a no-nonsense man, who would have had that bunny into the oven quicker than you could say Rabbit McNuggets. My response, however, was a frantic trip to the local pet store, credit card fully loaded, for a crash course on rabbit care.
I returned home the proud owner of a trendy new villa style hutch; a home for today’s discerning rabbit looking to portray quality, style, and elegance. Also two large bales of straw, a bag of carrots, and a basket of vegetables. And rather than eat Buffy, we all joined her on the back porch for a vegetarian dinner.
By the following morning it was clear Buffy was now an official member of the family, and other than the daunting task of toilet training her, which I still had absolutely no idea how, we would sit back and soak up our new and more fulfilled family life.
“I think Buffy needs a friend to play with,” my son, who I love, announced at breakfast.
“No,” I said, choking on my toast, and thinking this was clearly the time to put fulfilment aside, and show my son just who wears the pants around here.
‘Spike’, a black and white speckled rabbit, arrived two days later.
Despite my best efforts and separate living quarters, the rabbits did little but fight, dig, and urinate everywhere for the next two weeks. My house stunk almost as vile as the vet’s bill for the vaccinations and neutering. And I wasn’t sure how much more fulfilment I could take.
“Dad, what does newkering (neutering) mean?” my son, who I love, asked the following day.
“It means that Buffy and Spike can’t have babies,” I replied.
There it was. The inevitable, unanswerable, “Why?”
I shook my head and looked around the place – any evidence that I was ever king of this castle had disappeared to the back of the shed behind a mountain of prams, strollers, baby toys, bassinettes, cot, high chairs, and old baby clothes. And my car, a once gleaming machine that stood as a reflection of my manhood, was now nothing but a Wiggles CD on wheels – and all my son could ask is, “Why?”
“Why, Yourself,” I said.
I had done my homework out of fear for what could occur if I didn’t take precautions, and I discovered that a rabbit’s pregnancy typically lasts around 30 days, and produces multiple pups. That was simply more fulfilment than I could handle.
Or, was it?
It turns out that I was just a tad late with the neutering. How about that? Buffy was pregnant. Open the champagne!
“Can we keep the babies?” my son, who I love, asked immediately.
“Not on your Nellie,” I replied.
I would look after pregnant Buffy and find a good home for her pups. But, that’s it.
Roughly four weeks later, and ‘Sampson’ and ‘Jemima’, gorgeous twin rabbit pups are doing tremendously well.
Buffy is quite the mum. Of course, poor old Spike is totally bewildered. “Welcome to fatherhood,” I said to him. I wanted to put my arm around him, open a beer and give him the run down on how life was about to change – no more carefree romps through the yard, no more late nights on the carrot juice. It’s fulfilment time now.
Oh, by the way, I’d offer you a cute little bunny, but, you guessed it. We’re keeping them. My son, who I love, is so super excited that I don’t have the heart to give them up. So I’ll be spending the weekend making a new home for them all in the shed. Of course, I’ll need to move the cot to get to the bassinette to move the pram to move the…have I mentioned that I love my son?
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem