Can I Help You, Ma’am?

For Christmas we bought our younger daughter a pet.  Yes, I know.  Pets are NOT gifts.  Gifts are things you can exchange, or forget about, or give to Goodwill next week.  Pets as presents?  CRAZY TALK.

But when you live with an 11-year-old w/ a bearded dragon obsession, these things happen.  We tried the *NOT ANOTHER PET* tactic.  “I don’t want to have to deal with yet another pet, Georgia.  I’m already caring for Kiwi, Roxy, Bella, Ginger, Charlie (now deceased), and the fish.  “Daddy does the fish.”  “True.  But I do all the rest.”  “But, Mommy.  When you were young, Grammie and Pop Pop let you have whatever pet you wanted, you just had to learn everything about it beforehand.”  She had me there.  Still, we stalled.

For 2 months, my husband and I endured a steady-stream of pestering that would have killed weaker wo/men.  Georgia hounded us, hourly some days, leaving notes and suggestions where we’d see them, creating a keynote presentation: WHY BEARDED DRAGONS ARE THE BEST PETS EVER!  Reading every book she could on reptiles, and spending the rest of her time (between begging) glued to the computer, watching videos and absorbing websites devoted to the care and feeding of bearded dragons.  By mid-December, my husband and I had CAVED.  We didn’t tell her.  Instead I crafted a cute “Redeem For One Bearded Dragon” coupon, which she got on Christmas.  And for a mere $42.99 (w/ coupon), we made her holiday – and all the days after.

Chester Ellingsworth
Chester Ellingsworth

We got Chester on Boxing Day.  We would have brought him home on Christmas had Georgia gotten her way, but we assured her ALL of the pet stores were closed, and their employees enjoying a well-deserved holiday.  She didn’t believe us until she’d called several stores, to no answer.

SO first thing Dec. 26th, we got Chester.  He was so cute and tiny!  But his small size quickly revealed itself as a subterfuge.  Between his cage and accessories, the endless stream of electricity powering day and night lamps, and the FOOD (oh the food!), it costs more to home Chester than it does our 128-lb. Rottweiler.  Juvenile bearded dragons are bug-eating machines.  Every day or two, we are at the pet shop buying crickets, mealworms, and roaches.  Which we bring home, pop in the cage, and watch him inhale in 30 secs flat.

We’ve tried buying them in bulk.  But as great as we are at caring for our pets, we stink at caring for their food, and we’ve got a whole tank of dead crickets in the basement to prove it.  The mealworms keep much better.  They’re sold in little lidded containers filled with minced oats.  They’ll wriggle around in there, seemingly for ages, but, much like humans, there’s an issue with convenience food.  We can’t rely heavily on mealworms because (and I quote) “Mommy, they back Chester up.”  And I don’t even want to go THERE.

So back to the pet store we go.  At this point, they all know us.  We enter and the employees call out, HEY!  YOU’RE BACK!  They give us treats for our dog.  They regale us with stories about their own pets.  They commiserate on the expense of keeping bearded dragons.  B/c they have them too.  Which may be why they work at the pet shop (FREE CRICKETS, ANYONE?)  The employees are all very nice, but a funny thing has happened, something I’d never have anticipated, which, strangely, is why I am writing.  All of the blah blah blah above about Chester really isn’t the meat but merely the potatoes of this post. The real dish is – I AM OLD.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 3.03.09 PMDon’t get me wrong, I feel like an 18 year old inside.  Despite the fact that I have two daughters nearly my height, I don’t think I look all that ancient.  But to some I must.  Like the pet shop guy we see most frequently.  I call him “Cricket Guy.”  I’m not sure how old Cricket Guy is, maybe in his 20s or 30s, I can’t tell, after all, I am old.  But my husband, who is also familiar with Cricket Guy, assures me he is not that much younger than we are.  What I do know is that Cricket Guy calls me Ma’am.  A LOT.  As in, “Hi there, ma’am!  How are you today, ma’am!  What can I get for you, ma’am!  Here you are, ma’am!  If you don’t mind me asking, ma’am, where are you from, ma’am?”  And so on.

Either Cricket Guy is the most polite pet shop worker I have ever encountered, or he thinks I am 700 years old.  No one younger could merit the number of ma’am’s sprinkled into each brief conversation.  It’s become such a joke that when we walk into the store and see Cricket Guy is working, Georgia will elbow me and chuckle under her breath, “hey Ma’am.”  I’m not an overly sensitive person and I applaud politeness, but I can’t think of another term of respect that could make me feel so utterly DISSED.  I’m just waiting for him to ask whether I need help carrying the (roughly .2 ounce) cricket bag to the car.

Thankfully, as Chester grows, his diet changes.  Right now it’s roughly 75% bug-based, with 25% veggies, but when adult, Chester will be eating roughly 99.9% veggies! — which are in no short supply here.  Till then, it’s recurrent trips to the pet store. My only consolation?  Two days ago, when Georgia ran in to get a bag of crickets, she told me Cricket Guy called her Ma’am, too.  YAY!

0 thoughts on “Can I Help You, Ma’am?

  1. So… my 10yo son nags me daily with all kinds of facts and information about bearded dragons (and lizards in general). He is desperate for one as a pet. I’m about ready to cave, but the thing is, I am NOT a pet person. Everybody else’s animals are lovely, but I don’t want them in my house. Am I crazy to give in?
    Signed, A fellow ma’am 😉

  2. Heheh I FEEL YOUR PAIN!

    Short answer. As long as you don’t mind the expense. Do it.

    Long answer. As long as your son has learned all about beardies, and then some, do it. They really are awesome pets. Chester is so chill. Completely quiet, easy to clean up after, gentle, cuddly (weird but true), clingy, and YES quiet. He’s so engaging. I could sit petting him, looking at his eyes, admiring his beautiful dragon skin for hours (and do). The rest of the pets are so jealous..

    Only downside is the constant hassle and expense of getting bugs. And the electricity. And now we need a new cage. “Mommy, Chester’s getting too big for this one. He needs space!”

    Tell me about it.


  3. Maybe you could get the girls to watch the documentary “Earthlings” for some prospective on the keeping of animals among other things. I would also recommend adopting/rescuing if “no” isn’t an acceptable answer. There are plenty of animals (all shapes and sizes, hot blooded and cold) out there in need of homes, and those numbers will only grow as long as people continue to buy while others suffer and die.


    Thanks for sharing your story, Ma’am.

  4. As you know I was brought up in New Zealand so when someone calls me ma’am I look at them hard to see if they are being smart. Yes Ma’am at home usually carries A Tone.. and no.. surely not old yet!.. c

  5. Ahhh the sarcastic “Yes, ma’am!” I get that one too, always spoken w a twinkle in the eye.

    Strange that the form above doesn’t bother me, but the respectful form (a la Cricket Guy) does. Maybe it’s just the familiarity of the user. My husband can get away w a lot!

  6. I am older! You just wait young lady! On the topic of the lizard… I can just imagine trying to return such a thing. Yes, I’d like to return this lizard. It just doesn’t fit. I personally like lizards but prefer to have a furry feline. (that’s just what they made me type. Help me please!!)

  7. I found crickets in my basement for years after feeding them to my children’s anoles (lizards). That’s great that veggies will soon be it’s main course. They won’t escape!

    1. Too bad you couldn’t let the anoles “free range” in the basement for a while. Though I suspect that’d just create a secondary set of “issues.” heheh

      Yet another PLUS to add to the veggie column. Sedentary! Brilliant! 🙂

  8. “Instead I crafted a cute “Redeem For One Bearded Dragon” coupon, which she got on Christmas. And for a mere $42.99 (w/ coupon), we made her holiday – and all the days after.” Your daughter’s enthusiasm and love for animals jumps right out of this post. I’m so tempted to cave in to my son’s request to have a dog. We currently live in small apartment, relocating perhaps this Summer and though I love dogs too, ain’t practical yet. We bought him a pet turtle 2 years ago and I think he already forgot there is even a turtle in the house. But our kids will be only young once and though we are old, part of us at least, one day we will thank ourselves for being there when magic for them was so real and that everything seems possible. Best of blessings to you and your family.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, IT! Pets provide another outlet for love and responsibility to broaden a child’s mind and horizons. But within reason! Def wait till you have more time and space before bringing home a dog. Maybe you could suggest taking your turtle for a “walk”? Or better yet, just out for some sunshine. Wishing you all the best!

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