There have been some more changes.
We have a hamster now. Bubbles. My daughter had been asking for one for a while. I’d been saying no for a while. But in the end I gave in on her birthday. Since she doesn’t have a brother or sister I realised it would be a good thing for her to have a pet to care for. I smuggled a cage into the house in a rubbish bag, then wood shavings, feed, water bottle. Then Bubbles, the night before her birthday.
The next day, when she’d unwrapped the cage and hugged me and said through the smiles that it was the best present she’d ever had, the questions started.
‘What does he eat?’
‘A seed mix,’ I replied, pointing to an as-yet-unwrapped present.
‘How long will he live?’
‘Oh, not that long,’ I told her out of a desire to soften the shock of his eventual death. ‘Just a couple of years probably.’
‘Oh,’ she said, looking thoughtful. ‘And daddy...’
‘Where does he poo?’
I smiled. ‘In the cage. We’ll have to clean it out – you’ll have to clean it out.’
She looked up at me, her nose wrinkled in disgust.
It’s three months later and she does clean the cage now, wearing a clothes-peg on her nose to keep out the smell.
We are at the breakfast table eating cornflakes and she’s telling me about a poem she has written at school.
'What would you say if you were writing a poem about Bubbles?' I ask.
She thinks for a moment. ‘I’d say that every morning when I come downstairs and see him, my heart fills with happiness…’ she says, smiling, ‘… because he’s not dead yet.’
I choke on my spoonful of cornflakes and start laughing.
‘What daddy?’ she asks and I learn something more about the mind of a child.