- Family and Parenting
Babies are exactly like my cat, right?
Babies are exactly like my cat.
I am in my mid thirties and at that point in adulthood where many of my friends are beginning to make that powerful, life changing choice to become parents. Babies abound these days. The wife of my oldest friend had a baby a little over a year ago. Another of my closest friends officially became a breeder about two years ago and my nearest, dearest friend has an eight month old. It is her son I spend the most time with since they are geographically the closest to me. He is a delightful child who rarely cries and is cute as a button with a sweet chubby face, peaches and cream skin and large, wondrous blue eyes.
The last time I spent any time with one not-so-nearby friend and his son, a charming, dimpled cutie, I was struck by a comment the new father made about how people who don't have children, but do have cats, often will remark when he shares some observation about fatherhood “that is just like my cat!”
It is clear from the way my friend tells me this that the person making this type of exclamation is always a complete idiot who knows nothing about children at all and only has their own self centered existence as a frame of reference for anything.
I am just such a person. At least insofar as I own a cat and I don't have children. Also, I feel I should tell you, my husband and I truly love and adore our cat as if she had sprung from our own loins. We can often be seen carrying her about the house like a fuzzy baby slung over one shoulder and we cuddle her in the night sleeping in a sort of nest of warmth all together.
My friend, on the other hand has great disdain for domesticated animals and their accepted roles as givers and recipients of unconditional love in the average American household. He has made this point of view clear by both his tone when talking about cats and other pets, and also by the disturbing appearance of his own cat. My friend is the owner of a domestic short hair who has been overfed to the point of looking as though it swallowed a basketball. When the cat jumps off of a high surface, the house shakes. I have an aunt who is morbidly obese and I have been told that her ankles once spontaneously broke beneath the strain of her girth. She comes to mind whenever I set eyes on this cat. I don't think it is possible to make a pet this fat unless you harbor a latent hostility toward it.
Still, I could see the point my friend was making about how inexperienced people might tend to oversimplify the sophisticated responsibilities of parenting and, in doing so, undermine the complex potential and divine magic of babies. So, I of course, laughed disdainfully at the very idea that babies and cats are anything alike as I nervously patted his son on the head.
In the following weeks and now months, I have from time to time, laughed as the idea returned to my mind while I observed the toddler sone of another dear friend. At first, I sarcastically thought “Oh! He's just like my cat” and then, quite responsibly, followed that with the thought, “not really, though”.
But, the more thought about it, the more I started to get the uncomfortable feeling that maybe I was just like the idiot with no insight who proclaimed my defensive friend's child to be just like their little feline pet.
One day, I watched with great interest and excitement as my dear friend's toddler rolled an oatmeal can across the floor and then pursued it with intense enthusiasm on all fours. I thought “no, no. nothing like my cat, Gracie.”
Then, I saw him slop his food all over the kitchen floor and thought “hmm. Gracie would never do that.”
His mother slung him over her shoulder and he bounced along contently peering down at the world from his new vantage point. He crinkled a plastic bag incessantly. He butted his forehead against my leg. He put his hand in my glass of water. He slept all afternoon only to wake up, energized in the middle of the night. He banged the kitchen cupboards dedicatedly, trying to get inside. He scratched me and I still thought he was cute.
At some point, I finally had to admit the truth. This little boy behaves a great deal like my cat. And he is not that different from other babies which means that, despite my other friend's indignant claims to the contrary, babies are an awful lot like cats.
I have yet to admit this to any of the parents of the newborn and young children I know, but I am excited about the revelation because now I know I have been preparing myself all this time for the inevitability of my own child.
John and I will be good parents to our own baby because we'll understand the needs of a child, having already had the experience of meeting the needs of a creature who could not directly communicate with language. We 'll know how to give unconditional love to a sometimes frustrating and demanding presence. We 'll obviously appreciate all the little advancements of intelligence and learning, because we do now with our cat.
Nothing this year has excited me more than realizing that my cat, Grace had learned how to turn off the fan in the bathroom. I think what I experienced there was true parental pride.
Yes, I am confident we are ready to be parents. And, we even already have the litter box and the food and water bowls,so that's good too.
I just hope Gracie doesn't mind sleeping with the baby.