360 degrees of gerbil

All the world’s a stage …
And one man in his time plays many parts …

I’m just guessing here, but something tells me that William Shakespeare may have met a gerbil or two in his day.

We’ve all heard of or seen parents who have no clue about their children. “Not my Johnny,” a mother might wail. “He’d never do something like that!”

Oh, if only you knew and accepted the truth, lady. If only you knew. Perhaps you don’t possess the fortitude to face certain truths.

Assuming level-headed parents who are able to see the writing on the wall, they will reluctantly acknowledge whatever their children are rather than the pleasing fiction of what they wish they were.

Sigmund Freud famously believed that parents were the center of a child’s universe. Some contemporary researchers, however, believe that peers have much more influence on development than parents. (Source.) That’s potentially some good news for some parents out there. If your child is an asshole it may be less of a reflection on you as a person and your parenting skills than you might have guessed.

One thing, at least to me, seems certain. As children grow older their secret lives grow as well. They keep some parts of themselves private from their parents. In reality, this is something we all do as a matter of living our daily lives. At different parts of the day I’m husband, father, employee, citizen, volunteer, driver, customer, etc. Each role has different parameters and the range of behavior may vary. In some cases, it may vary by an extreme amount. The people that interact with me will see the range of behavior for the given circumstances. They may never see any of the other sides me in the various roles that I play on the stage of my life.

It is the same with gerbils.

As parents my wife and I are not stupid. We knew full well that we weren’t privy to the many secret lives of our gerbil. But knowing something is out there and is possible is a lot different than getting confirmation of what it is. A gerbil’s life is one of plausible deniability.

For example, you may suspect that what you are being told is a lie. That suspicion is slightly different than confirming beyond the shadow of a doubt that what you have been told is false. Suspicion and knowledge are two different things. Gerbils live mostly in the gray area that lies in between.

The process of learning more and more of the various faces that have been carefully hidden from you can be extremely arduous. Among other things it involves revising your definitions of what is possible. You may have previously thought your gerbil would never do certain things, but when faced with evidence that is indeed the case, you only have two choices: Delusion or acceptance. True acceptance can be quite difficult. I hope this is not something that most parents have to experience. You can trust me when I say this process is quite unpleasant.

The reality is that you may know and understand your gerbil far less than you ever thought. If a gerbil was a circle, the part visible to you might only be a tiny fraction of the total, perhaps only one thin degree. Can you imagine finding out that you know that little when you believed it was actually much more?

In our case that circle of knowledge continues to grow and we are reaching the point that while the love is still there a tipping point is rapidly approaching. For lack of a better term, an intervention is fast approaching. I fear the future in that the three years of a total lack of responsibility may have already irreparably harmed our gerbil. Our kindness and giving in may, in the end, turn out to be counterproductive to his well-being. For myself, I can admit to being surprised.

For us the end game is near. Unfortunately there may not be a lot of humor in it.

14 responses

  1. Interesting metaphor..


    1. What metaphor? The boy is literally a gerbil.



  2. I know this. I’ve been there. And I can tell you that I’ve had to play some hard ball that broke my heart and terrified me. But each time, my gerbil learned and grew, and even as he hated it, he knew I was right. I had to keep holding on to the knowledge that his intelligence and goodness were there, but buried by pain and angst and laziness. And he has grown and changed.

    I believe we have to hold the hope for them because they don’t carry it themselves during times like this. And that does mean limits and consequences and heartbreak. But continuing to reinforce what they are capable of at the same time pays off.

    Sorry – I found a soapbox.


    1. Thanks for those comforting words. They pack a lot of strength. Glad you stopped by! I know I haven’t commented a lot but I’m still a loyal reader.

      Seeing you reminds me I should share some “poetry” soon. (That’s what I call it for lack of a better word.) I’ve good a journal full of doodles. I shall double my efforts!


  3. So sorry you are having such a hard time with your grown kids – I can imagine that must be sort of heartbreaking. I hope that you can have a real heart to heart and help them to see the light, while maintaining a loving relationship. Best of luck to you..


    1. We’re still being “weak” instead of going “hard ass” and hoping he pulls out a win. One more major snafu, though, and that might be it for him. I don’t want to give away the cliffhanger but a month after his “move out” day he still has our key. Yikes. πŸ™‚


  4. unabridgedgirl | Reply

    “That’s potentially some good news for some parents out there. If your child is an asshole it may be less of a reflection on you as a person and your parenting skills than you might have guessed.”

    I was trying to drink water when I read this line. Didn’t happen. Thanks.

    On other notes – I hope that things work out for you. Coming from a family with a “Gerbil” that has put us all through a lot of grief and hurt, I know what a hard road it is, and I can only imagine what it’s like as a parent.


    1. Attention: Kenzie has once again identified the key phrase in a post of mine. She doesn’t mess around. She gets right to the heart of the matter! πŸ™‚


  5. I’m so glad I’ve found you. Your warnings of what is in store for me is appreciated. Depressing, but appreciated, all the same.


    1. Trust me. It’ll never happen to you. That’s what I’m here for. To take the fall for everyone else. πŸ™‚


  6. You know, I’ve been reading your page for a while now, and I finally found this post. One of my children has been heading for, nay, has dipped into the font of gerbildom, and I’m working on nipping that in the bud.



    1. Our G.R.I.P.E. scientists and researchers will be most interested in your findings if you encounter any measurable success. They will want to subject your processes to peer review as fast as possible.

      Let us know if you need an ear lobe electronic tagging device. It is designed to look like a gauged earring so it blends in. One of our most ambitious plans involves tracking the movements of gerbils within their natural habitats. Our scientists theorize they cover an incredible amount of territory. Although fiercely territorial they believe there is a lot of boundary overlap.


      1. Ok, kinda creepy the timing, here. Just as I finished typing my reply and sent it, the junior gerbil walked into my office to give me back my phone. Long story short, she was waiting for a call about a job, and as she stood here with me, they called back and told her she has to be at orientation on Monday!

        I had given her 2 weeks to find a job, or to talk to her grandparents about living in Podunk-farmville for a while till she got her grown-up panties. She snuck in under the ribbon with only 2 days left. *phew*

        I’m keeping an eye on this, though, strictly for scientific purposes, of course.


  7. A job is an incredible achievement for a gerbil. In fact, it is the single characteristic that can put gerbil status most at risk.

    However, if the gerbil blows every single penny earned on inconsequentials then gerbil status remains safe. My gerbil’s status is extremely safe much to the benefit of Red Bull, Monster, an unknown brand of cigarettes, and the local marijuana market.

    Good luck with this most promising development! πŸ™‚


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