Dr. Benjamin Spock Always Said There’s No One Way to Raise Children–So I’ve Decided to Raise Mine as Hamsters

I’ll make sure to provide plenty of substrate in your cages for burrowing. Burrowing builds character, or at least I hope it does.

Dear Mattyson and Hunter,

I believe, along with the sainted Dr. Spock, that there are many ways to raise children, and I’ve been searching for the easiest one. Among my friends, “helicopter” and “lawn mower” parenting are popular methods, but these seem to require actual effort. As a parent, I wanted to raise very low-maintenance offspring, so I turned to the animal kingdom for inspiration. 

The other day in spin class, I had an epiphany. As I pedalled madly, never getting anywhere, I thought to myself: Which creatures exercise like this? Which ones are also easy-care, self-reliant and not too smart? And it struck me: Bingo! I’ll raise you as hamsters! 

Really, you’re already halfway there, kids. You’re both nocturnal. Your extra food sits around in your rooms for days, untouched. You respond to your own names (once in a while). 

But I’m really excited about bringing you up as “hamstern” (from the German word meaning “hoard,” which is fitting) for other reasons. It’ll be a hoot to watch you skedaddle around the house in big plexiglass balls while I sit on the sofa watching “Animal Planet.” Besides being entertaining for me, these exercises will strengthen your hind leg muscles. You’ll be in fine shape for jumping up to grab the small bite of carrot or strawberry I hold aloft as an occasional treat.

Don’t worry your fuzzy little heads about food. You’ll get tasty, nutritious hamster chow twice a day, and you’ll soon learn to store it in your capacious cheek pouches for “meals on the go.” Depending on how much you “hoard” (get it?), your heads will sometimes appear two or even three times their actual size. What a cute touch for family photos!

I know you both like to hide, especially when it’s time to kiss your Aunt Debbie, so I’ll make sure to provide plenty of substrate in your cages for burrowing. Burrowing builds character, or at least I hope it does. I hear hamsters clean themselves by rolling around in animal dander, so you’ll each get a weekly bowlful. This will remove the oil from your fur, and sure will save on our water bill now that those two hour showers you love are out. No need for dentists; I’ll make sure you have plenty of colorful chew toys to gnaw on.

Your hearing will be as good as your sight is rotten, so you two will have to address each other in frequencies your father and I won’t be able to pick up on – same as always, right? Smell will be your most important sense by far, which I hope means no more Axe Body Spray and Victoria’s Secret Dream Angel.

While I do regret the abrupt ending of your formal education, I promise to read to you from the classics while you race to nowhere on your giant wheels – Stuart Little, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, and of course the adventures of Sulu, the hamster-robot in the beloved Captain Underpants.

Someday, my pets, you’ll be released into the wild, and my parenting duties will end at last. You’ll be out in the wide world, to mate with other hamsters and have litters of your own. Just remember, if your offspring ever stress you out, as hamsters you can always eat ’em. 

No matter how far you roam, you’ll always have a cage and water right here at 122 Maple Avenue – that’s my promise to you, Puffles and Truffles.

Did I forget to mention your new names? Oops. 

Love, Mom

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Elise Seyfried
Elise Seyfried

Elise is the author of four book of humorous essays, and has written for many publications including The Belladonna Comedy, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Purple Clover, The Independent, HuffPost, Grok Nation and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Elise is the mother of five children, and spends a lot of time working in a church. This is probably not a coincidence.

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