Bunny Teaches Baby

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Foodie babies are tasty. (pg. 9)

Foodie Babies Wear Bibs” by Michelle Sinclair Colman, Illustrations by Nathalie Dion

Peekaboo, or “Peek” as baby K calls him, is our furry, long-eared pet bunny (well, family member actually) who hops around our home and forages the kitchen floor for K’s crumbs under her chair. Before K was born, Peek was our “baby.” My husband got Peek for me as a surprise on my 20th birthday and since then he’s been our in-home bunny who’s received gifts on his birthday, Christmas and of course Easter, learned and performed a handful of tricks (including fetch, rolling over and circling me!), brought smiles to the children at the schools I’ve worked at, welcomed baby K on her first day home and even helped Mama Bunny Buttons birth a litter of 8 adorable bunnies (pictured below).

During my pregnancy, I always wondered how Peek would bond with K…and vice versa. Would it be love at first sight? Love-hate? Hate-hate?! I’ve heard that animals who’ve always been the only “baby” in the family could become very jealous of anyone that became the new center of attention. When I was born, my parents told me they had to give our pet dog away since he would growl and nip at my fingers when I was around. Thankfully parents don’t do that to children because I know that happens most often with babies/toddlers who no longer are the “baby” of the family (we’ll talk about that another time).

Thankfully, Peek and K’s relationship blossomed over the last few years. From before birth, he noticed the change in my belly and sensed a new life. When I would sit on the couch reading a copy of What to Expect, he would hop on over, nudge my belly and then give K kisses. When K came home and we introduced them to one another, Peek couldn’t get enough of K. He’d lick her from head to toe, literally! There were times we’d have to redirect him because we thought she had enough. K would just lie there and smile. When K started to crawl and then walk, Peek would chase her around the house and eventually K began chasing him. They’ve always had a sweet, loving relationship and I’d have to give credit to the fact that we have Peek in our home. K has learned so much through caring for and living with her “big brother.” Here are a few things she’s learned…

IMG_0006_2             IMG_9123

Peek kissing K from head to toes        K with Mama Sabrina’s pet dog & bunny

Self-Regulation “Gentle hands…use gentle hands.” K heard those words over and over for a few weeks as I gently opened up her grasp and demonstrated how to pet him. When K began grasping for Peek, she had no idea how strong her fingers and painful her pinches were. Thankfully Peek is a very gentle, good-natured bunny (a Dutch Dwarf mix if you were wondering) and would just hop away. For a few weeks, my husband and I spent a lot of time reminding and monitoring K and then one day, K began petting Peek and Peek began to trust her. We would praise K and tell her how much Peek loved when she pet him gently. K would smile and then kiss Peek on his back. I’ve also recently realized that her self-regulation with Peek has transferred over to her interactions with friends and others, using “gentle hands” when playing.

Responsibility Peek loves to chew everything…everything that isn’t his own, that is. K learned that right away…and we let her learn the hard way (I know, we sound harsh, right? Well read on and I think you’ll conclude it was worth it). Once K could successfully put her toys away, we always asked her to do so before moving on to the next activity. So that meant if K was finished reading books on the couch and wanted to paint a picture, we would remind her, “We need to put our books away before we paint or we might trip and Peek might chew them.” One day, she decided she didn’t want to put her stickers away and left them on the rug. Minutes later, half of her stickers were chewed up and eaten (thankfully Peek was OK). K cried, picked up her stickers and put them in her basket. Since then, K has ALWAYS listened to us when we remind her that Peek will chew them up! She’s learned the importance of cleaning up and being responsible for her things.

Nurture & Compassion K always wants to help feed Peek his breakfast, snacks and dinner. She loves to scoop out a handful of pellets and pour them out for him to nibble at. When teething on a cold long celery stalk or carrot, she loves to share it with him. I often find her purposefully dropping a few pieces of her food for him to eat during mealtime (and as you know by now, K takes her food seriously…making sure she gets every bit of it into her mouth). I really appreciate her care and nurture for Peek! Where I’ve seen K show compassion is when we were at the park one day and it was time for us to leave. K does not like leaving parks and she will let me know, especially when there’s no logical reason to her (it’s raining, for example). After saying goodbye to the slides, swings, etc. and transitioning to walking to the car, K began to protest..with a LOUD voice. At this point I couldn’t give her a snack to redirect her because it was almost dinnertime so I tried to use any good reason I could come up with to help her understand why we were going home. Peekaboo is hungry and we need to feed him his food was all I could come up with and to my amazement I heard “hmm,” meaning “Ok, I hear you. I’m in.” And the protesting stopped. When we got home, she walked over to Peek’s cage, reached for his food and I helped her scoop out his dinner. Now that’s nurture and compassion  🙂

Are you raising a family with pets? If so, how has your pet influenced your little one(s)?

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