You see, I thought I'd be smart and let the children vote on either gerbils (another teacher had one and it was all they talked about), fish (I already have a tank), or hermit crabs (definitely my first choice). After they opened their surprise from me, we took a vote. I made sure to explain ALL the responsibilities that came with each pet and we talked about working together to provide a happy home for whatever was decided. Unfortunately for me, gerbils won by a landslide. You know in kindergarten, it only takes one kid to say, "Vote for gerbil, ok?" and all follow suit.
In early January, I headed to the pet store to purchase a cage and gerbil. Thankfully my husband was there to guide me in cage decisions, etc. because he and his brothers owned little rodents when they were kids. We left the store with two gerbils - I didn't want one to get lonely - and cringed as I listened to them scratch and scurry in their box on the way home. I told myself it would be worth it when I saw 20 smiling faces the following morning... and yes, it was (the children's smiles and squeals of delight get me every time ;)
Unbeknown to me, gerbils can begin the whole mating process at a young age. Oh, did I mention that the guy at the pet store couldn't tell me if I was buying male or female? His response... "Uh, they're too young to tell. We just got them in." Silly me, I bought them anyways. Well, about two weeks after purchasing them, I noticed that their affection for one another had blossomed quite quickly. I did some major research on the habits of gerbils and found out that in approximately 24-28 days, little pups would arrive.
That day was Wednesday...
Imagine my surprise when I glanced over at the cage Wednesday after school in between meetings and saw an unattractive pink squishy thing in the cage. I gasped and called my husband right away. "Matthew, dear, I think my gerbils had a baby!...no wait, two, no four... oh my goodness, there are five babies! What do I do?!" I said as I counted and recounted. He assured me that they have a natural instinct to care for their young so I don't need to do much of anything. After staring at these critters for a very long time, I decided they weren't so revolting after all. Even a hairless, blind, squishy pink gerbil pup can have a teeny bit of cuteness to it - not to mention watching a mother and father care for their young is cool to watch. I was reminded that God created such animals and instilled in them this instinct to nurture that's pretty fascinating for a small rodent. Nice.
Well, the babies are now 5 days old and all 5 are still alive. My knowledge of gerbils has grown more than I ever thought it would...ever... and I hope the babies all live! My students were absolutely THRILLED with having an entire family in the classroom. It also works as a great tool to keep the class quiet because "the babies need to rest." :) I haven't told the kids yet, but I already found another home for the male gerbil and hope to have him rehomed in a couple weeks. When the babies are old enough (7 weeks) I will re-home what's left and keep a female with the mother. Smart plan, I think. Lord-will there will be a female in the mix! For now, my class and I will continue to watch as they grow and develop - hoping nothing goes terribly wrong and they have a happy classroom life!