We had a new arrival over the weekend, and his name is Niko. He's a little over 8 weeks old, feline and furry with paws too big for his body, formerly living in a barn with his Mom and siblings, and now he's in his new forever home at our house - a belated birthday present for my beautiful daughter.
We loaded him into the cat carrier in the back of the car on Saturday, then drove off with Anna and David in the back seat, trying to crane their heads and bodies around to see him while I continually reminded them that this car was going nowhere if two kids didn't sit down, already.
He started howling the minute we put him in the carrier, of course.
"Mom! He's crying!" Anna was clearly upset.
"I know, honey. He's just scared right now. We just took him away from everything he knows and that carrier probably smells like our other cat so it's unfamiliar to him. He'll be fine once we get him home and out of there."
Anna bit her lip, staring silently out the window as the cat mewed on. And on.
"Mom, turn around."
"What?" I said. "Did you forget something there? I told you not to bring your phone."
"No. We have to take him back. Listen to him. He misses his family. We have to take him back."
"Oh, Anna," I sigh. "I know he does. But Miss Jessica can't keep him. If he doesn't come home with us, he'll go home with someone else, or go to a shelter. I know it's sad for him, but he's got you now. You'll give him plenty of love, right?"
She nodded, blinking back tears.
"We all will, Anna. And he'll be fine. He and Beatrix are going to be great friends, just you wait and see."
Well, he and Beatrix didn't exactly hit it off, but she wasn't hissing or trying to attack him, so it didn't go too badly. We left him in the carrier, she came up for an experimental sniff (to which he replied by licking her nose) and then she took off and hid under the bed for the next two days. Now they're just eye-ing each other curiously and walking circles around each other when they pass too closely. Niko settled right in, delighting us by exploring and batting and jumping and rolling and generally being a kitten. He slept in Anna's room both Saturday night and last night, and this morning when I woke her, he was fast asleep in the crook of her neck.
And then it was time for school.
"Mom, maybe I should stay home today..." Anna said, hopefully.
"That's a great big 'no' and you know it." I said with a smile. We have a firm rule in our house. You only miss school for one of three reasons: Death (your own or a loved one), illness (which means fever and/or vomiting - 'I have a headache' and 'I'm tired' do not qualify), or a broken bone that has not yet received medical attention. A kitten certainly does not meet the criteria.
"Honey, he's going to be fine. He's got a whole house to explore, plenty of food and water, and he and Beatrix are doing OK. Besides, he's a kitten - he'll probably sleep most of the day."
Anna stroked his fur, nuzzling her face into his side. "What if he cries? What if he wonders where I am?"
"The he cries, and he wonders, and he gets used to it. And then you come home and it's all great again. Anna, you have to go to school and he has to get used to being with just Beatrix during the day. The sooner he gets into that routine, the better it'll be for him." I put my arm around her shoulders. "Now, say goodbye and put Niko down."
"I can't!" She cried. "I can't do this! I really, really can't." Tears glistened in her eyes and my heart contracted. I almost told her OK. Instead, I kissed her forehead and said gently:
"Just wait till you leave your kid at daycare for the first time. Or with a sitter."
She stared up at me, forlornly. "It's worse, huh?"
"Yeah, about a thousand times worse. Your eyes looked about the same as they look right now. I cried all the way to work that morning. I was a wreck."
"Can I stay, please? You could call in sick." She said, earnestly.
"No, honey, I can't. And you need to go to school. Niko will find his own way, just like you did. And you'll have to learn to let go a little."
"I don't know how you can stand this," she grumbled as she grabbed her school bag. "This is so hard."
I kissed her and gently guided her to the door, and out into the world.
"I know, honey. I know."