Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rattling my cage

by Deborah

My oldest daughter has always liked enclosed spaces.  She wants to sleep with a "cave" over her, is constantly building blanket forts, and is contentedly entertained by pop-up play tents.

Recently, we got a crate for Sadie, a really nice, furniture-style crate that can double as a side table in our bedroom.  I ordered it online, and it had to be assembled once it was delivered.  I did this in the living area, where there was room to spread out.  I had set the kids up with a movie to give me time to work, but of course, curiosity won out and the Oldest was soon down poking around, trying to help, and definitely wanting to know what I was doing.

I explained that I was making a new house for Sadie to sleep in, a place for her to feel safe and happy, where she could go anytime she was tired or wanted to be alone.

Oldest thought about this for a moment, and then asked, "Is it a cage?"

I hesitated, but admitted, "Yes, it's a cage, but it's not for locking her up, it's for her to feel safe and have her own space."

Oldest digested this.

"Can I get in it?"

It's a spacious crate, more than big enough for her and her sister to climb in and happily play all day, to fill with toys, and generally take over.  I foresaw the dog's displacement from her new home and attempted to cut it off at the pass.

"No, this crate is just for puppies.  You and your sister are not allowed in it."

This was not the answer Oldest wanted.

"But I waaaaaant to plaaaaaaay in it!" 

"No, this is Sadie's home, it is just for her."

I see the beginnings of an imminent meltdown.  And then the sentence that I was simply unprepared to deal with as a parent:

"But I.....WANT....A.....CAGE!!!!!"

"...................................................................." was my response.

(.....insert several more paragraphs of ellipses of me being completely nonplussed.......)

I then spent the next half hour in the ludicrous position of having to explain that I was not going to cage my child.  This evoked a full-on, no-kidding tantrum, peppered with the screechingly loud, on-the-edge-of-hysteria demand, "But WHY can't I have a cage?!?!?!"

That is a surprisingly hard question to answer.  Turns out the no-cage rule is a very difficult position to defend.  She is four, and a bit young to understand explanations such as, "Because Child Protective Services frowns on that practice."

Saying, "Because it's a home just for Sadie," just evoked jealousy of the dog's privilege in getting to be caged.

"But I....(stomp).... want....(shriek).... a.....(wail)....cage!!!!"

Insert child here.

I have entire weeks where I would give anything to keep this child in a cage most of the time, and I can't believe I am having to say no to this.  Only the anticipated conversation with government agencies prevents me from setting up a dog crate in  her bedroom and locking her up for hours on end.   I suspect we'd both be pretty happy with that scenario.  I really had no good explanation for my four year old why Mommy won't put her in a cage. 

So I finally resorted to the only satisfactory explanation I could muster, the time-honored tradition of the exasperated.....

"Because I said so!  Now go watch TV!"

Yeah.  Parenting gold right there.  Feel free to steal that.

It's entirely possible that twenty years from now, my child will be in a therapist's office crying her eyes out about how I thwarted her needs by refusing to dog-crate her.

I just pray she doesn't end up in jail, happily behind bars, finally fulfilling her desire to be caged that was so cruelly denied by her mother. 

If you will excuse me, I'm going to go start a bail fund now.

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