Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Maybe it is the same

You know how people with kids are always arguing that if you don't have children you cannot possibly know what it is like- the joys, the pain, the adventure, and how it changes your life? Yeah, those people are wrong. I am a mother, it's just that my kids have fur and bark.

Those same people will read this post and immediately determine that I am mocking them, or that I don't understand or that I cannot possibly compare my relationship with my dogs to their relationship with their children. Dogs aren't capable of learning as children are, they don't grow into a fully functioning adult someday, and they cannot interact with me as a child can. Well listen-- you're right, they won't grown into an adult who is obsessed with gaining more in our capitalist society, so preoccupied with doing the right thing to gain the most amount of money, the coolest stuff and the fastest cars, who will do his or her part to destroy the country and the planet we inhabit. You're right, my dog will not grow into the uber-douche your child will be programed to be during their years in school where they are taught that math and science are all that matter and getting into a good college, and becoming an investment banker is the only viable option left despite your insistence that the arts hold value, literature is a gateway to true knowledge and life is about more than money. Spending 18 years trying to mold my offspring into believing something that the rest of the world will renounce at every turn, and will eventually make their adult lives more difficult sounds awfully time consuming and ultimately disappointing. I commend all of you who are doing this, but it's just not for me. I admit that my dog is not like your child in every  way. But, the fundamental relationship I have with them is the same.

I have three kids (4 if you count Dave the video game playing, fit throwing, adorable lovable husband). My oldest child is 10 years old. I was a single mother in my 20s raising this hellish little being who cried all night, had to be potty trained and slept on my chest for naps. She lived with me in our one bedroom apartment while I tried to figure out what I was doing, who I was and where I wanted to be. She is extremely sheltered, and spoiled. When she was very young she was so cute. Now, as the oldest sister she has turned bratty, obnoxious and loud. She commands her own space in our home, demands respect from both of her younger brothers and generally parades around arguing with me and Dave and fighting with her siblings, determined that she is in fact the head of the household, and we must all obey her. She is Gizmo, my calico cat.

My second oldest child, is turning 4 in November. This one was a perfect little baby. He slept the whole night through from the first night we brought him home. Potty training was a bit of a chore, and he has not outgrown his sass. He talks back to his parents, whines when he wants something and pouts when he is mad. He is used to being the center of attention, and with the addition of his younger brother he has begun showing signs of jealousy, demanding that we ignore the baby to play with him, or lashing out at his brother. He harasses his older sister, and bullies his brother. His favorite things to do include playing with a football, and watching childrens shows on television. He has grown into a perfect little toddler, who taught us how to love and has changed our lives forever. We can  no longer leave the house for days or several hours unless we bring him along, or get him a sitter. We cannot ignore him while we are home, he is in constant need of our attention. When he was young, he had to have an emergency surgery and we quickly realized how much he means to us both, how much he has impacted our lives and how heartbreaking it was to watch him suffer. He is my great dane, Wellstone.

And now, the newest member of the Keirn family. Our baby. He is only 2 months old and has been very ill. Any parent who has had to deal with the stress and anxiety of having a sick baby must understand what we have been going through. He was diagnosed with a severe life threatening disease just days after we brought him home and had to be hospitalized for a week. During that week we had no idea if he was going to pull through, and in my worry it was then that I realized I truly am a mother. I will do anything I have to to save my baby. I will pay exceedingly expensive doctor bills, I will take time off work to go to the hospital and I will cry myself to sleep every night until he is better. He has gotten better, but still remains sick, having contracted pneumonia while in the hospital. It has been so sad to look into his weepy eyes and know you are doing everything you can to make him better and it isn't yet enough. He is too weak to walk long distances, so we must carry him outside for potty training, and he coughs relentlessly-- causing us to worry and stress. We believe he will get better and eventually grow up as a perfect match with his older brother, but getting there is difficult. He is my baby, Webster.

It has been during this difficult time with my baby that I have truly realized it is the same as having children. My maternal instinct is completely wrapped up in these dogs (we count Gizmo as a dog as she mostly behaves as one) If they are sick, I nurse them back to health, wiping their noses, filling their vaporizers, patting their backs and giving them their medication and all the tlc I can. We have taught them how to behave with others, in the house, how to use the bathroom, and apparently how to talk back to their parents. We watch them play with toys, laugh at their reactions to things and notice behaviors all kids share.

So maybe it IS the same.

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