So, there’s a dead hamster in my freezer.…
Why is there a dead hamster in my freezer? How Did it get there?
These are really good questions. And the answer is both so much more complicated than one might think and yet can be summed up simply – parenting teens.
In some ways the fact that there is a dead hamster in my freezer and the reasons behind it are truly symbolic of how ridiculous and hard and exhausting parenting teens is in today’s world.
It feels like there is never a moment to slow down, to breathe….. to bury a hamster.
So, please don’t judge me too harshly as I tell this story. But the hamster, whose name is Barry, has actually been, shall we say…departed for several days now.
I had known for awhile that the little furry guy’s days were numbered. He was almost two, which is actually a pretty long lifespan for a hamster. I tried to help prepare my daughter for Barry’s passing, but how do you really prepare a 13-year-old for this kind of loss?
She loved and cared for him diligently – cleaning his cage, feeding and watering him, and snuggling regularly.
So, Monday night, I went to her room to tell her good night and happened to peek in Barry’s cage. I could see he was laying just outside his normal hiding place and unusually still.
I said NOTHING.…
It was late. I was tired. She was tired.
It was already going to be hard enough, and neither one of us was going to be in the best frame of mind at this hour to cope with Barry’s loss. I just wanted to go to bed. Without the drama.
I know I’m a terrible person, but I could not with the dead hamster right then.
My hope was that we would get up in the morning and be in our typical rush to get out the door to work and school on time. Since hamsters are nocturnal, he’s rarely out in the morning, so I thought she wouldn’t even notice.
Then when we got home that evening, I would casually walk in and make the sad discovery. We would both be in a better place to handle it. She would of course be devastated, but she would have plenty of time to shed the tears and feel all the feels. I would be better able to consoler her. It would just be easier for all of us.
But life rarely goes to plan…. especially when you have teenagers...
So, here is how it actually played out and why there is currently a dead hamster in my freezer.
As I am getting ready for work, I hear a faint knock on my bathroom door. I open it to a precious teen girl with tears running down her face. “Barry died,” she sobs at me.
My heart breaks as I take her in my arms. I tell her how sorry I am. I try to remind her that he had such a good life for a hamster. I walk her out to the living room and sit with her on the couch. She cries, I console. She cries more, I console more.
But the clock ticks, and I still have to go to work.
Oh, Did I forget to mention we live in South West Florida, where hurricane Ian (An almost CAT 5 hurricane) hit just a few weeks earlier? I am a college instructor, and my students have already missed so many classes. I just can’t cancel on them.
So, I wake up her father, who is still sleeping, because..
Oh, did I also forget to mention, we had spent most of Sunday in the ER because he got severe food poisoning. He’s still recovering.
“Barry died,” I tell him.
“Our daughter is sobbing, and we just can’t send her to school like this right now. Are you well enough to take her later today when she’s feeling better?”
Again, normally a missed school day would be no big deal. But oh yeah, almost CAT 5 hurricane, weeks out of school already, and she hates to miss school.
He nods sleepily and starts to get up to take over the grieving teen duties. At this point, I’m running late and don’t even really think about the hamster that is still dead in his cage.
In between classes, I get a text from my husband letting me know that our daughter has made it to school. He dropped her off and then came home and removed poor Barry from his cage and put him in a box in his office.
The day goes on, I end up at work later than planned. I forget that my daughter has dance that night and she decides she wants to go. I pick her up from dance, we eat a late dinner, she’s got homework and then its bedtime.
Rinse and repeat the next day and the next….
There isn’t a spare moment, which is typical for most families today. There are jobs and traffic and school activities and meals to be prepared and eaten, sports events, dance classes, homework. It goes on and on. From sun up to way past sun down we are scheduled almost every minute and often double booked.
Each day is like waking up to a new wave crashing down upon us. We’re barely keeping our heads above water. We’re exhausted and our brains are overwhelmed trying to stay on top of everything. We forget things, often. Like coffee left on top of the car, important appointments or the text we read but never responded to from a friend.
Oh yeah and dead hamsters in boxes in our husband’s office.…
That is until, we get a text at work. “Barry is in the morgue.”
Confused I text back, “????????”
“The dog was in my office, and while I was on a call, she was sniffing around at something. And then I remembered… Barry,” he replies. “Clearly she could smell him, so I put him in the freezer.” And this is how a dead hamster ended up in my freezer.
I text a friend who has sort of a small animal zoo at her house. “Umm, so what exactly does one do with a dead hamster?” I ask.
“You dig a hole and bury him,” she replies with a LOL emoji.
This seems obvious. But I’ve never done this before. And again, my brain is overwhelmed. I have so many questions.
“Do we need a permit?”
“Should we make a grave stone”?
“What does one say at a Hamster burial?”
“How deep should the hole be”?
“Should we put him in some kind of plastic bag so other animals don’t smell him and dig him up”? (The answer is actually no, because this slows down the decomposition process and is actually more likely to lead to his discovery and exhumation).
And then just the absurdity of this whole situation hits me and I can’t help it, but I laugh. I’m mortified. “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?” I think. “This poor hamster, and my poor daughter, and why am I laughing?”
This is so NOT okay….
But come on, there is a dead hamster in my freezer along with the leftovers and the ice cream. And no, there is nothing okay about it. But the reality is that as parents of teens today things aren’t okay. We aren’t okay.
We are juggling All.The.Things. The world has been so far from normal for several years. Our teens are living these crazy, over-scheduled, stressed out lives and so are we. But are trying our best to somehow make things okay for them, to make things somewhat normal, to help them figure it all out and make it all work.
But we’re struggling too.
We’ve got aging parents and friends navigating diseases and divorces or maybe it us that is navigating these things ourselves. We’ve got jobs that thanks to modern technology are 24/7/365. We hardly have time to eat, sleep, get some exercise, go out with friends or on a date with our significant other. Hell, sometimes it feels like we’re lucky to have time to breathe.
Are we even breathing?
And this is why there is a dead hamster in my freezer.
What else am I supposed to do but laugh? Of all my choices, it really is the best option. It is not okay, but this is the life we lead as parents of teens. Sometimes we have got to be willing to embrace the absurdity of it all, to laugh, to give ourselves grace.
We are not alone in the exhaustion and the overwhelm and the forgetting. No one is holding it together right now. And if it looks like they are, well, you never know, but they just might have a dead hamster in their freezer….