Mice are Nice

My daughter had a rough year. She started experiencing severe anxiety related to school and suffered from panic attacks. At the time, it was bewildering and I felt unable to address her needs. The school counselor bent over backwards to help her, but she didn’t have any magic cure. Neither did a slew of other teachers, friends and healthcare providers.

My daughter is not alone in this experience.

An estimated 31.9% of adolescents have an anxiety disorder.

That’s a staggering figure.

One of the good things that came out of this experience (yes, there are GOOD things) is that we learned how to better communicate with one another. She began sharing more of her concerns and ideas with me, rather than just the superficial observations of everyday life. Our relationship became stronger. The anxiety issue is not behind us. I don’t believe it will ever be entirely absent from her life–or mine, but hopefully both of us will develop better coping mechanisms.

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My clever girl came up with one of her own ways to soothe herself. I will admit, I wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea at first, but I eventually gave in because (a) she had done a lot of research to support her argument and (b) I desperately wanted to give her something that made her feel better.

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So, yes, I allowed her to adopt a trio of mice. As is shown by the screenshot of our text messages, I was concerned about how our cat would react to the little creatures. I don’t believe this would be the case for every cat, but ours didn’t express even the slightest curiosity about them. She’s getting pretty old and all that canned food keeps her sated, so she wasn’t tempted by them in the least.

I enjoyed seeing my daughter bond with her little pets. She is not an emotionally demonstrative child, so I wasn’t sure how well she’d do with her caretaker responsibilities, but she took them very seriously. She spot-cleaned the cage daily and did a thorough cleaning once a week. She fed them and played with them and fussed over them when they inevitably developed a cold or respiratory problem. Sadly, despite her excellent care, the little creatures aren’t long-lived.

We had to have some tough discussions about mortality. But kids need to learn about those big issues and it’s no use trying to shield them from every unpleasant thing in the world. She learned to grieve and to move past her grief when the time was right.

My verdict: They are, indeed, “freaking cute” and “smelly.” They are also excellent for a child who needs to connect with another creature and to develop a sense of competence and responsibility.

They are also capable of some gymnastic feats that will blow your mind.

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