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Everything I Need to Know About Parenting, I Learned from my Guinea Pig

The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable.  ~Lane Olinghouse

I came late to the parenting game when my 14-year-old stepdaughter moved in with us last September.  I’ve made my share of mistakes, and contributed to numerous misunderstandings, but I’m getting the hang of it now because I’ve had such an amazing teacher:  Abby*, my foster guinea pig and a new mom of twins.  I will be returning the pigs to the shelter in a matter of weeks (oh there goes another tear-fest) so I am scrambling to learn as quickly as possible.  But here are some of the more important lessons I’ve learned.

  1. In hindsight you’ll realize, pregnancy and birth are the easy parts,
    The Whole GPig Clan L-R Betty, Nancy, Abby, Rosette

    raising good kids takes considerably more effort, patience and resilience to pain and heartbreak .  My foster guinea pig gave birth in her cage in my room without waking me up.  I hear more from her now as she keeps the kids and her sister companion in line.

  2. Twins don’t have to be or look anything alike.  (Must admit that lesson was
    Twin Pigs Nancy and Betty

    hammered home by my twin nieces, as well.) Nancy (the smoother, crested baby) is named for my mother who has many of the same personality traits. (I don’t know if my mother thinks this is a compliment but it is.) She is self-assured, much bigger and is first to try anything, plus  she is fearless  and is first to come to the side of the cage for treats.  Betty (the wild haired little girl) is named for my mother-in law for personality similarities, too.  Betty stays in the background at first drawing people to her, and she is coming into her own. She’s very active,  she hops and pops high into the air for no apparent reason.  She’s wisely practical, sneaking in to grab fallen pieces of food while the others duke it out for a newly proffered piece.  And she’s very vocal about wanting to be with her family and she loves my great white rabbit.

  3.  Good manners are not instinctual they must be taught.  Baby guinea pigs at first rip lettuce out of each other’s mouths.  A few nips and head butts later, and they come to the window for their own treats.
  4. Even the best moms need time for themselves.  Abby has taken over the loft
    Mom hides from kids

    that used to belong to her companion piggy, Rosette.  Now it is her oasis, as they say on HGTV, so she can restore her energy away from constantly underfoot and nursing babies.  The kids can’t climb up yet, and she has a great vantage point for seeing if they try to go too far or if danger comes too close.  Sadly, we both know, it’s just a matter of time before the loft is overtaken by demanding kids.

  5. No one thinks your kids are as wonderful as you do.  I needed this lesson, as I could go on and on about Leisa’s accomplishments, but seeing the non-mom pig push away the little ones who try to nurse,  I realized what I think is cute can be downright annoying to others.  PS No Leisa has never tried to do that.
  6. If you stick a bunch of girls together in a bedroom, they will stay up all night talking.  Enough said!
  7. Put the oxygen mask over your own face first.  Mom pig eats and drinks first
    Great White Bun (Mystic/Baby) comes over for dinner

    because she is still nursing and needs to keep her strength up to ensure the best care of her children.

  8. Encourage your children to be open to friends of all shapes and sizes. With supervision of course.
  9.  No matter how big they get, they’ll always be your babies.
Mom and her girls

*I use nicknames for all my foster creatures.  The bonded adult pair is really Zane and Maybel.  And I’m not sure I get to name the babies.  They will be available for adoption at MSPCA Nevins Farm in Methuen, MA in a few weeks.

© 2011 by Alison Colby-Campbell

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