One day last week my daughter, Arayla (14) was out riding her horse at the stables, when suddenly I received a text from her with a photo of a tiny little brown bunny, cupped sweetly in her hands.
The text read: “I rescued a baby bunny. Can I keep him?”
I responded: “Awww…so cute. No, my love. I think he needs to go home to his mom.”
She wrote back: “But a cat attacked him. He’ll die in the wild.”
I replied: “Oh no! Poor guy. I wonder where you could bring him to keep him safe? Maybe you could google local wild-life rescue shelters? He can’t live with us, my love.”
I could see the writing on the wall on this one, and intuitively I was guided to be firm.
She wrote back: “Yeah, ok.” And that was the last I heard.
Side note—(lest you confuse me for just another mean, bunny-refusing mom ;-)) : When the children were small, over a stretch of many years, I believe we went through about 12 bunnies total. Yes, you heard me: 12.
Oh, there was Buddha and Quan Yin, Poseidon and Luna, Buttercup, YeMaya and Sunshine… just to name a few. We had a wonderful rabbit hutch in our spacious backyard garden in West Sonoma County, CA.
But rabbits are delicate animals, it turns out. The slightest change in weather or digestive disturbance can end badly for a little bunny, and so we also had many rabbit funerals.
Each time, the children would lovingly wrap their dead bunny in some old, soft t-shirt and flower petals, then tearfully dig yet another hole in the backyard dirt with their small metal shovels, before lowering the body of their bunny into the earth. I remember them improvising funeral songs and naming their gratitude for these sweet, sensitive friends.
At one point, when the kids decided they felt guilty about keeping their bunnies enclosed in such a small space, we tried “free-ranging” them in our back yard. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear this eventually culminated in nourishing the local owl and fox families.
When the kids got old enough to hold more responsibility, I was thrilled we could graduate from pet bunnies and move on to having a dog. And just 7 months ago, I made the huge decision to support my passionate and gifted equestrian daughter in rescuing a 6-year-old retired race-horse; a gentle giant with tremendous promise—a horse of her own to love and learn from and grow with. (But that is a story for another blog post!)
And so you might say that my, “No, you may not keep the tiny, injured baby bunny” was a somewhat informed stance, particularly considering how many animal responsibilities my daughter already has.
But a couple hours later, when I drove to pick up Arayla from the barn, the first thing I saw was a cluster of teenage horse-girls, all standing together in a line like a small army of maidens. Arayla stood in the center of the line, and it appeared they were explicitly waiting for my arrival.
Oh boy here it comes, I thought to myself.
I had barely finished parking before the group of eager, gangly, long-limbed girls all rushed to the side of my car. They were glowing with unified purpose and camaraderie. As I opened the car door, Arayla rushed in close, carefully revealing to me in her hands the tiniest, furriest, most appealing little baby bunny that ever existed. Oh my.
My daughter’s eyes were awash with soft, sentimental love.
She said formally: “Mama, we’d like to introduce you to Biscuit.”
I smiled at her meekly, asking, “Oh—you named him?”
Arayla backed up and quickly reclaimed her spot in the center of the band of maidens.
One by one they each came forward then, with their carefully formulated argument for why the only right choice was for all of them to “co-parent” baby Biscuit, and nurse him back to health until he was big and strong enough to be released back into the wild.
Each girl was so uniquely determined, eloquent in her stance, and confident in her commitment. They had every detail covered—from housing for the bunny, to research of what a tiny, wild baby bunny needs, to a solid plan for how to equally share the cost of food.
Arayla’s eyes looked at me pleadingly. She said, “Please, Mama? We’ll take care of everything ourselves…?”
I mean—what could I do? They were all so darn adorable and impressive. I couldn’t help but recognize it was a wonderful opportunity for them to stretch into collaborative responsibility. What a perfect Summer project for a group of young teen girls.
So I took a deep breath as I smiled at them. And then I acquiesced: “Okay girls, I’m in…”
The girls jumped up and down, squealing joyously, hugging each other ceremoniously.
For two days the baby Biscuit rescue saga continued.
The first co-parenting shift was happening at Arayla’s house, and so the girls came to visit him, taking turns feeding him special milk with a syringe, carefully tracking and charting his poop and pee to make sure he was healing.
Arayla’s brother Ezra (10) fell in love with the baby bunny too, of course.
I watched my beautiful daughter rushing around the house with diligent focus, carefully tending to the needs of this small, utterly dependent animal. I appreciated how fully she was rising to the task.
All signs pointed to Biscuit’s growing strength and health! He started jumping around joyously, kicking up his tiny bunny hooves, as he revealed a definite love for snuggling.
On the third day, however, things suddenly took a turn for the worse.
I was busy working with long-distance healing clients that day, and in between appointments Arayla asked if I could drive her to one of the other girl’s houses. She had baby Biscuit wrapped in a little cloth, tucked warm in her hands. As we drove, she anxiously explained to me that all did not seem well with him, and she was hoping her friend would know what to do.
About an hour later, I received a text: “He’s dying, Mom.”
I texted back: “Oh my Love. I’m so sorry. How can I help?”
About twenty minutes later, I got the text: “He died. We’re gonna bury him.”
Soon after, Arayla got a ride home. The moment she walked in the door she broke into deep sobs of heartbroken grief. She wailed loudly and crumbled to the ground. I wrapped my arms around her, and her brother came rushing out from his bedroom and wrapped his arms around her too.
We just held her close as she cried and cried.
I was impressed by how deeply and fully she grieved. She was definitely not holding anything back. In fact I noted that it seemed she was grieving the loss of this little wild bunny more passionately than any of her pet bunnies she’d had as a little girl.
That night she fell asleep crying in my arms. In between sobs, she said things like, “I’m just so disappointed, Mom. I was invested. I loved him. I feel so defeated now. So purposeless. I was saving him. I was giving him another chance.”
The next day she was still clearly feeling the loss, but showed signs of resilience, laughing again and playing robustly with her brother.
The following evening I was resting quietly in my bedroom when both kids suddenly appeared in my room with an air of uncharacteristic tentativeness.
Immediately suspicious, I said, “Uh-oh…What is it?”
“Oh nothing, Mama,” Arayla replied cheerily with innocence, “We just wanted to talk to you about something.”
Ezra nodded in agreement, beaming by her side.
The dynamics were obvious. Arayla was clearly up to something and had enrolled her little brother as her devoted side-kick and back-up.
“Ok…?” I responded, somewhat skeptical. I sat up on my bed and faced them: “Let’s hear it.”
Slowly Arayla pulled out a folded-up piece of paper from the back of her jeans. She said, “Now don’t answer right away, okay Mom? Just stay open. Just listen to my perspective.”
I took a deep breath, and replied, “Ok, you got it. I’m listening openly.”
Ezra nodded at me, as he coached: “Good job, Mom.”
I couldn’t help but giggle at his cuteness. He was perfectly fulfilling his role as her ally.
Carefully referring to her handwritten notes, Arayla then began to make a case for getting a new pet baby bunny.
She explained how loving Biscuit had made her realize how much she really loves bunnies and misses caring for them. She had made a small financial spread sheet based on the costs entailed, and explained how her Summer job would contribute to these costs.
My heart softened, as I opened to receive her proposal. It was easy to see how this was another way for her to process her raw grief about the little bunny she’d lost.
As I listened to her diligent display of all the relevant points, intuitively I could tell she already knew the answer had to be No.
Just as she had assigned Ezra the role of devoted side-kick in her process, she had also assigned me a role—of holding a clear line of discernment for her.
As the kids began to feel my answer arising, Ezra took a noble stand on behalf of his sister. He pleaded fiercely: “Mom, she worked so hard on this. She really wants to do this, Mom. And I’ll help her. I really will.” He stood resolutely by Arayla’s side.
I smiled at them tenderly.
I said, “I really appreciate and respect how you looked into this possibility. And I really get how much you loved Biscuit and how losing him made you naturally want another chance. I’m sure once you’re a grown woman you’ll have all sorts of animals in your home. But I just don’t see how this would be a wise choice for us at this time, given all the other pieces we are juggling. I’m sorry.”
Arayla’s face fell, and started to break with emotion. Clearly upset, she turned on her heel to go. Ezra, her loyal ally, frowned at me with sharp disapproval, before also turning and leaving the room.
Alone in my bedroom once again, I sighed and pondered this wild play of relationship and the various roles we are given to uphold in our committed love for one another.
What an honor it is—how we get to show up in these temporary lifetimes and steward one another in skills of openness and flexibility, discernment and surrender; lessons of yes and no, attachment and investment, disappointment and forgiveness.
The next morning, first thing upon opening my eyes, I noticed my daughter waiting by the side of my bed.
I gently scooted over to make room for her beside me, and she jumped in, letting me spoon her sweetly, as she pulled my arm tightly around her to hold her close. We lay there quietly together for some time, just breathing in the treasure of morning quiet.
Finally she whispered with an air of precious humility, “Thanks Mom. Thanks for being my mom.”
I smiled softly and squeezed her and nuzzled her precious little bunny head.
I said, “I really love being your mom.” <3