"I have to share the gerbils and the cat with all my siblings. I need a pet that's just my own," she argued. "Parakeets are so much fun! You can play with them and teach them tricks. They're very social. I just want one sooo bad!"
By June of last year I was growing tired of Hannah's pleading, and slightly more sympathetic. I had a hard time looking into her little longing eyes because I saw so much of myself in her. I had been the child in my family who wanted an entire zoo in my room. I grew up with three rabbits, a dog, fish, mice, and yes, a parakeet. When I was thirteen I had pled with my own parents to let me get a parakeet, and I had used every reason that Hannah was now throwing at me. I had loved my blue and white bird, Kiana, for six lovely years before she died. Kiana even came to college with me for two years and was something of a dorm mascot. Two of my college friends got parakeets after they met Kiana.
How could I look into my own daughter's eyes and tell her "no?" So at last I sighed and said, "Go talk to your father about it."
"Absolutely not," was Matt's response. "No. No way. We already have two gerbils and a cat, and you apparently don't care about them anymore. No. We're not going to turn into a zoo."
Hannah's little heart shattered into a million pieces in front of us both right there. Rounds of reasoning began as Hannah attempted to counter each one of Matt's objections. She brought it up again and again over the following days until Matt decided to put a stop to it.
"Hannah," he said, "owning a parakeet is a big responsibility and a long-term commitment. I wouldn't even consider it until you were at least ten years old. So I won't talk about this with you again until after your tenth birthday. I may consider it at that point, if you are still interested in it. If you bring it up again, I'm just going to say no."
At the time, Hannah's birthday was nine months away, and Matt was quite confident that Hannah's parakeet-enraptured phase would pass before her birthday came. It seemed like a great solution at the time. The only problem is that as the months passed by, Matt's direction to postpone the discussion became, in Hannah's mind, a promise that she would get a parakeet for her tenth birthday. Matt tried to put a stop to that thinking each time it came up, reminding her that that wasn't what he had said. But that didn't matter to a nine-year-old dreamer.
Nine months later, Hannah was more ready than ever to own a parakeet. She had been checking out books on parakeet ownership and studying in preparation. She was counting down the days and counting the ways her life was about to be more wonderful. When I reminded her once again that Dad had never promised to agree to this, she replied, "Well, he could't say no now. I've been waiting my whole life for this! That would just be cruel."
About a week before Hannah's birthday I asked Matt if he had made a decision. "I don't think I have any choice at this point," he said. And he really didn't.
Hannah didn't want anything for her birthday except cash and Petco gift cards. She wanted to be sure she would have enough to buy everything she needed for her feathery friend. When she was showered with $80.00 at her party and Matt finally gave her the official OK, she almost fainted from excitement.
Yesterday, Hannah could hardly breathe on the five minute drive to Petco. She was more giddy that a girl in a white dress and veil. Matt had a little fun with her and played Christina Perry's A Thousand Years on the radio while we drove.
We came home with a cage, food, treats, toys, and a beautiful little female indigo parakeet, whom Hannah named Avalyn Joy. Hannah cushioned every bump in the car ride, and spoke in a sweet hushed voice to the frightened bird in the cardboard box as we set up the cage in her room. Avalyn, however, was less thrilled with this meeting than Hannah. Once in her cage, she froze stone-still in a corner and sat without moving for over an hour. Hannah lay quietly and patiently on her bed, waiting for Avalyn to warm up to her new home, but the bird refused to move.
Hannah came to ask me if I thought Avalyn was OK. I explained that she had been through a lot that day and that she was probably scared and would need some time to adjust.
This morning, Hannah woke me up bouncing into my room all giggles and chatter, "Mom, guess what?! Avalyn is so active! She's a gymnast! And she's been eating, and drinking, and chewing on her cuttle bone, and swinging on her swing! One time she jumped off her swing onto her perch and the swing swung and hit her in the bottom and scared her! It was so funny! And she's been talking to me, and she just loves me! She really does! She is the best!"