Like Getting Sunscreen Off The Cat

by Holly Bourquin

Originally published in the 2009 eLetter

I've decided that whenever I accomplish something unusually difficult that I will refer to it as "like getting sunscreen off a cat," because, as I recently learned, getting sunscreen off a cat is really, REALLY difficult.

If you've ever spent time with a three-year-old, you know that they possess a supernatural power. When you're not looking, they can move at the speed of light and cause more havoc in the space of a couple of minutes than you ever thought possible. My daughter reminded me of this power a few days ago when, in the time it took me to sign and address two holiday cards, she doused our adopted kitty in sunscreen.

To do this, she had to push a chair from one side of her room to the other, climb on the chair, open the top drawer of her dresser, rifle through the contents, locate the sunscreen, climb down, capture the cat, open the sunscreen, and spread the sunscreen on the cat. I wish I had surveillance cameras in my house because the quickness and agility that was needed to complete these tasks in the time available still seem--despite the proof of a cat smeared in sunscreen--impossible.

Since her actions were well intended--she was putting the sunscreen on the kitty so she would be safe in the sunshine--I was on the fence about punishing her. She knew the cat was going outside and that when she goes outside she puts on sunscreen. She knew from me that you put sunscreen on to be safe, and she, of course, wanted the kitty to be safe. If you skip past the tiny fact that the cat has fur, it was really pretty logical.

So after I "bathed" kitty, myself, the bathroom walls, and anything within twenty feet of the angry, darting, clawing, scratching, highly irritated, and now wet cat, I opted not to punish my daughter. Instead, I decided to have a conversation with her about the consequences of her actions.

Did I mention she was three? In retrospect, a time out may have been more appropriate. While she understood that she shouldn't climb on things, that the kitty had to have a bath because of the sunscreen, and that because of the bath Mommy looked like she had rolled through thorns, I'm not sure she put it all together. I wonder, though, is learning to think about the consequences of your own actions something that doesn't sink in until you are a victim of the consequences of someone else's actions?

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