I crossed my fingers and toes hoping that my eight year old daughter Sapphire would have a severe allergic reaction. I wanted it to be like the one she has to cats: wheeziness of breath, red itchy welts on her face and hands and eyes rapidly puffing and swelling shut. So bad that she has to go to school for the next week with a note from her doctor stating that it was a severe allergic response and not the result of problems at home.
Alas, none of these events happened at her friend Maya's place and she skipped home with me, excitedly chattering about her victory against allergies. "I'm not allergic to them Mum! That's such good news - I'm not allergic to rabbits! So, can I have one now, Mum? Please?"
Poo. Bum. Bugger. Shit. Fart. I don't dislike rabbits per se; there's always some nice pictures of them on Cute Overload and they're sweet to touch when some other kid brings them into Sapph's class for Show And Tell, but it's just that I've never owned one and am perfectly happy to keep it that way.
We live in the burbs. A standard(ish), quarter-acre(ish) block, surrounded by dozens of other similar spaces, and we already have Milly the retired-runner dog and three contented chickens. When we go away for the weekend the chooks have a seed-feeder and a water dripper and can pretty much fend for themselves. Milly can either come with us, visit her Kelp-ador mongrel mate Coco or stay with our nice neighbours Jack and Una. A rabbit (or two, so that they have 'company'), is another task altogether. Fresh hay, shifting the hutch, keeping up a variety of fresh veges, making sure their front teeth don't grow too long and keeping wire underneath to prevent them from digging an escape route.....
All this information didn't deter my child. She had that standard expression that all kids have when asking for:
* fairy floss for breakfast
* a sleepover on a school night
* a new game for their Nintendo
* more time at their friend's place
* to stay up later
.... that really just means that they are patiently waiting for your lips to stop moving so that they continue with their line of questioning: "So Mum, when are you going to tell Dad that I'm not allergic to rabbits?"
I tried another angle, this time suggested by Maya's mother, Sarah, and now full-time feeder, handler and keeper of their two pet rabbits. She suggested that I remind Sapphire that her one hour visit and petting session with their two - Dolly and Hutch - was the longest amount of time her kids had spent with them for months. "You see, being outside in their hutch all the time means that they're not directly involved with the life of the family, and the kids have lost interest in them."
"But Mum," Sapphire interjected, her blue eyes still beaming with hope. "I read in that pamphlet from the pet shop that you can train them to come inside and use a kitty litter tray---"
I seized my chance: "But what about Milly? She'd hunt them down and have them for dinner."
"Not if I build some little fences from my Ello Shopapolis set and train her how to be their friend and ....."
I let her burble on (as Love Chunks tends to do with me on many occasions) and again cursed the Creator for his/her negligence in the 'Total allergy to pets except chickens and dogs' department. Why let rabbits burrow under the radar?
We've had two weeks of school holidays and as the primary carer/social secretary/chef/entertainment coordinator and playdate wrangler, I could foresee a fortnight of 24/7 rabbit requests. It was time to ensure that Sapph's holiday was full of diversions.
Unfortunately, not all of these proved to be pleasant ones. On the first Monday we went to Dunstan Park with Lucinda and spent the first couple of hours videoing them on the whizzy sticks with the aim of scoring a few seconds of good footage to send in to 'Australia's Funniest Home Videos.'
What we ended up with was several clips of the worst fall-down acting ever, and Sapphire throwing up in the car on the way home.
Tuesday saw Maya and Sapph at Kensington Adventure playground, wedging themselves into the spinning teacups and taking it in turns to video the results. This time, no vomiting resulted, but no potential $200,000 prize winning clips either.
On Wednesday we found ourselves back at Dunstan park, with Holly. Eschewing the whizzy sticks for the spinning tractor tyre and the massive slippery dip, Sapphire's mind had temporarily forgotten the rabbit debate and was firmly into monetary matters. Not, alas for Holly, who turned a pale green and had to lie down on a park bench before it was safe to drive home.
And thus, the remainder of the holidays have involved a few days at Victor Harbor at her Grandparents' place telling them all about the joys of rabbit ownership; scooter trips; a school working bee; a couple of movies; some home cooking sessions with me (the hopeless teaching the messy); and several fruitful shopping expeditions.
It was all going well, with rabbits receding further and further into the murky distance of Sapphire's bunny brain.
That was, until yesterday's playdate at Maya-the-Rabbit-Owner's house. "Pleee-a-a-a-se Mum, can I have a rabbit?"
I said that sentence that all parents find themselves saying when they know that the answer is a definite 'NO' but they don't have the heart to tell their child yet:
It didn't wash. "But you said that last week and the week before!"
Hmm. Time for the second-most dependable-but-non-committal response: "I'll need to talk about it with your Dad, OK?
"When? When he gets home from work tonight? Or why don't you call him on his mobile right now?"
*Sigh*. Love Chunks and I have not yet had the bunny discussion. He is, at this very moment, out in the back shed with our beloved daughter, trying his damndest to get the bright plastic, battery-powered potters' wheel he bought her to work. Maybe procrastination by pottery is the answer.