The Blame Game

This is one of my favorite pictures of Kalvin taken by a wonderful friend-photographer, +Pam Trudel. He is about 6 months old. The second picture is one of Kalvin when he is one month old being held by his cousin Logan for the very first time.

Last night before going to bed I realized Kalvin had left our pet turtle, Cookie's, lights on and I went to turn them off. I glanced to my left and noticed that our hamster, Hammie, was not in his bed. I panicked at first because Hammie has been known to escape from his cage and wander about the house. However, what I discovered was far worse than an escaped Hammie; it was Hammie sleeping by his food, something he never does. Kal received Hammie from his cousin, Logan, and Logan had rescued Hammie from his father's chiropractor's office. Hammie’s age was estimated to be somewhere between 5 and 6 years old. In hamster years that is over 100- I think. We purposely spoke of how old Hammie was to prepare Kal for this very day. Kal brought a book home from the library all about hamsters and it actually estimated their life expectancy at around 3 or 4 years so we knew we were on borrowed time.

I noticed Hammie was still breathing and I called his name and adjusted his cage a bit. He moved, but not much. I got a little weepy and went into my bedroom and told my husband I thought Hammie was in the process of passing onto Hamster Heaven. To which he replied, “Nonsense!”

The next morning Kalvin came running into my bathroom holding Hammie and crying. "He is gone mom, Hammie is dead," he whimpered. He moved him around and tried to wake him up, but we both knew he was gone.

We went downstairs to get a box to place Hammie in and Kal kept talking to him and trying to wake him, but he just was not moving. Then Kal told me he thought maybe Hammie was tricking him. He placed him on the counter to see if indeed this was a trick of some sort and Hammie's little feet stuck straight up in the air. “Oohhh, he’s dead all right,” Kalvin cried out. “ There is no faking that!”

Once Hammie was tucked away in the box awaiting burial, Kal quickly changed tunes, "Hey, can we get a new hamster today?!"

What? This is not the Kalvin I know. Is he really going to let this go this easily? I pondered for a minute and then told him it was is awful early to replace Hammie. “After all,” I told him, “we haven’t even buried him yet.”

"Well a new hamster would make me feel sooo much better,” Kalvin pleaded. “ No one will ever replace Hammie, but a new hamster sure would help!”

Then as quickly as he seemed over Hammie, the next phase of mourning began. "Oohh, this is ALL my fault. I didn’t hold Hammie enough. I didn’t feed Hammie enough. I was a terrible owner. This is all my fault, " Kalvin cried. Over and over.

The strange thing is, I was just thinking the opposite. Almost like Kalvin sensed that Hammie's life was ending soon, he started holding Hammie more than usual. He had him in his hamster wheel, crawling around on the floor with him. I was thinking these last five days were wonderful for Hammie. A nice way for Hammie to end his long happy life here. I told Kalvin all this and reminded him of those final last days-how much fun they had together and what a wonderful caretaker he had been. He lamented over his so-called neglect for hours. It was sad to listen to especially since it just wasn’t true. Kalvin was extremely devoted to Hammie and took excellent care of him-always.

I was stunned. A 7 year old is being this hard on himself? Really?? It was hard for me to believe that he was actually blaming himself and over something that was totally out of his control. Over something that just was not true.

And then I thought about all us moms out there.  Our guilt. I thought about all the heart moms out there,  who despite knowing they did absolutely nothing wrong,  feel this pang of guilt that somehow we are responsible for our baby’s broken heart.  Was it something we ate, something in our water, in our air??  Was it something we did,  not even aware of now,  that caused this defect to happen to our baby's heart?  Science and doctors tell us no, we are not responsible.  But we don’t believe them...not at first, so we continue to look and search for answers and still we come up empty.  But the blame is there, blaming ourselves for something that was not our fault.  For something that was out of our control.  We beat ourselves up over something that is just not true.

I hope that in 2013 we all will try and practice random acts of kindness on ourselves.  Try and talk to yourself the way you talk to your children and your best friends.  Change that voice inside your head that is continually telling you things that are just not true.  Make that voice encourage and motivate you instead.

Below are pictures taken the night Hammie passed into Hamster Heaven…this is Kalvin with Sam-our new baby hamster. While I knew it was early to replace Hammie,  I also knew Kalvin knew Hammie was not replaceable.  Sam gave us all a reason to smile and soften the voices in our heads.

RIP Hammie 1902 – 2013.

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