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The Birds, The Bees and The Guinea Pigs

When I first found out I was going to be a dad I immediately ran out and bought the spine-tingling suspense novel What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I never read the sequels What to Expect the First Year, What to Expect the Second Year, or What Did You Expect?: The Teenage Years. But I’ve asked, and it turns out there is no chapter in any of these books on What to Expect When You’re Daughter Wants to Breed Her Guinea Pig.

Somehow my daughter Abbie arrived at the idea that her guinea pig, TJ, should have babies. You know, to pass on the TJ family name. To grow her posterity. To leave a legacy during her lifetime.

I don’t have any proof, but my impression is that TJ is probably more interested in having babies because she is going to need someone to take care of her when she’s old. Last I checked, she had paid virtually nothing into her 401K and IRA accounts. Also most of her life has been spent working part-time gigs and getting paid under the table, so she won’t qualify for Social Security either. Essentially, her children would be her retirement fund, and if she doesn’t get busy, she’s going to end up childless and in a Guinea Pig Hospice, delirious and telling stories about how she could run on her exercise wheel for days without taking a break. She would bore the other guinea pigs to tears, I am most certain of that.

Being sensitive to TJ’s situation, and being reassured by Abbie that we were not going to keep all the guinea pig babies, I agreed to pimp TJ out to the most qualified male guinea pig in the tri-state area. Abbie had recently been to the birthday party of a friend who received, as one of her presents, a male guinea pig. Coincidence? I think not.

So, in one of my most awkward phone conversations on record, we invited this family over last Saturday night, and requested they bring Chuck, their guinea pig, to enjoy a romp on our stud farm. It was all under the guise of our families enjoying some dessert together as friends, but essentially, it was so our guinea pigs could get it on (to coin a phrase). And I don’t care where you’re from, that’s weird.

On top of that weirdness was a generous helping of novel emotions on my part. I was suddenly suspicious of Chuck. What kind of guinea pig was he? What sort of upbringing? What kind of education has he had? How is he going to provide for this new family of his? If he’s like the other guinea pigs I’ve met, I’ll tell you how he’s going to provide for them – he’s not! And then I’ll have all these little fatherless guinea pigs running around! I’ll have bastard guinea pigs, that’s what I’ll have! The humanity!

But I didn’t have the heart to intervene. Who was I to step between two rodents in love? Plus you should have seen TJ getting ready for her date. Checking herself in the mirror every five minutes, on the phone with her girlfriends all day, writing in her diary about how this was the night she was going to give herself to a complete stranger named Chuck.

So Chuck shows up fashionably late, and man, you should have seen the look on his face. TJ is three times the size of Chuck, outweighing him by at least 2 lbs. It was a Jack Sprat situation if I’d ever seen one. And then Chuck had the audacity to look at me as if I were to blame. As if to say, “Hey, man, this isn’t the order I placed in my Mail Order Bride catalogue. I ordered Angelina Jolie, not Queen Latifah. You’ve got exactly five minutes to fix this situation.”

Assuming that guinea pigs are different from humans (but similar to teenagers) we just stuck two random guinea pigs in our backyard and fully expected them to mate. As if the difficult part in this scenario was over. “Well, thank goodness we found a female and male guinea pig. Now we just sit back and wait for babies.” It was pretty unfair for us to not even consider the social pressure we were putting on these two.

Katie had put together a delectable salad for TJ and Chuck to enjoy while they got to know each other. You know, to help with the small talk. Plus they say radishes are an aphrodisiac for guinea pigs. (At least that’s what I overheard Chuck explaining to TJ.) So the two of them sat in a grassy spot in the backyard, enjoying their salad and chitchat, all the while trying to ignore the entourage of children watching their every move. Sensing that neither TJ nor Chuck were comfortable with their role as exhibitionists, we had the kids come inside the house and we all enjoyed dessert.

About 30 minutes later our friends ventured to the backyard to retrieve Chuck, and they found him snuggled up next to TJ. Did it take? Did they even try? Had anyone bothered to explain to them how it works? Were they feeling shy? Were they just too full from the salad?

The gestational period for a guinea pig is 70 days…but I can’t wait that long to find out, so I’ll probably sneak into her room while she's asleep and take a peek at her diary to see if we can expect a whole bunch of little TJs come late August.

You are no doubt impressed with my intrinsic fatherhood aptitude. Not only am I acutely aware of my daughter’s feelings, but I am even protective of her guinea pig, as if she were one of my own. I don’t know, I guess it’s just the way I was raised – good manners, patriarchal order, and the inner workings rodent propagation.

The best part of this whole experience, though, is that it has inspired my new book, Fatherhood: I Bet You Weren’t Expecting THAT!

Ken Craig is a father of six, a husband of one, and a bishop of many. He enjoys long walks on the beach, virgin pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain. Oh, and whatever U2 concerts he can get to without being arrested first. He met his wife Katie in a comedy troupe at BYU, and they are, according to pretty much everyone who knows them, almost nauseatingly adorable. Read his blog, "The Craig Report" for details on any of the above biographical claims.

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