Parents wonder how their kids will grow up. Will they be kind, smart, generous, or axe murderers? In my experience, the surest way to make sure your children develop compassion, empathy and generosity is to get them a cat.
“Daddy, Daddy!” the kids chorused. “Mommy said we could get a kitty!”
“I told them that if they did chores for 10 days straight,” she said, “each of them could get a kitty.”
We were having difficulty getting the kids to do their chores. My wife had solved both our chores-problem and the kids’ desire to have a pet in one stroke. The kids had wanted another cat since loyal friend Nat King Cat had died.
“Now you guys understand that YOU have to take care of your kitties,” said my wife.
As the result of the “deal,” my kids became chores maniacs. The whole thing smacked of bribery, but the house and kids were cleaner and the kids were happier.
The kittens would stay in the kids’ bedrooms for the first 10 days. After day eight of the chores marathon, we went to find kittens.
“I picked out my kitten!” my boy exclaimed. “He is gold and has really big ears. I’ll call him ‘Spock’!”
“My kitty is a silver tabby, Daddy!” said my daughter. “The first thing he did was give me two kisses. I’m going to call him ‘Kiss-Kiss’!”
It was “kitty come home day.” It was chaos!
The kids’ bedrooms were ready with food, water and a litter box. The kids went up to their rooms with their kittens. We didn’t hear anything for over an hour. I went upstairs. Each of the kids was on their bed petting their kitten. Both kittens were purring madly. I left them alone.
Each night the kids went to bed, we heard them talking to their kittens. The kittens adored the kids. The kids adored the kittens. Spock slept on top of my boy’s head. Kiss-Kiss slept next to my daughter’s head.
After 10 days, it was “kitten release day.” It was chaos!
The kittens climbed into every nook and cranny. The kids followed the cats. My boy was watching Spock closely. Then “it” happened.
“Daddy, Spock did it!” My boy shouted. “I saw it, daddy! Spock leaped into the air after the feather I was dangling from a string. I moved it down and to the side of Spock, and he still got it!”
“What did Spock do?” queried my daughter.
“Spock went in three directions at once!” he shouted.
Not to be outdone, my daughter set about teaching Kiss-Kiss to go up, down and sideways all at once. My boy helped. Kiss-Kiss did all the work; he jumped up to get the feather, went down and sideways to get it when the feather moved down and to his side.
“Daddy, Kiss-Kiss did it, too!” my girl exclaimed.
Each of my children has grown to have more empathy, generosity and compassion because of the little lives they share their beds with. When I wake the kids in the morning to get them off to school, a kitty head pops up where my kids’ heads should be, and I laugh.