I am the mother of four human beings. I am also mom to two cats and am well aware that it’s not the same thing. But dare I say one can gain some wisdom about being a decent human mom from being a decent pet mom?
So much of our ego is wrapped up in parenting our children. We blame ourselves for their shortcomings and take credit for their successes. “If only I spent more one-on-one time with her earlier,” “She’s bad at math like I am,” and “I should have set more consistent rules when he was a toddler” are not helpful. “She is beautiful like my sister,” “she gets her intelligence from us,” and “We raised him right” are just the other side of the same coin. When they seem to do poorly, we feel unnecessarily guilty, and when they do well, we take undue credit.
When the cat misbehaves, it’s just being a cat. It’s either kind of funny or it’s just something we deal with in a relatively kind way that works. If we can teach the animal, we do. Sometimes we ignore it because it doesn’t matter very much. It really doesn’t have anything to do with us. Why can’t we think that simply with our kids? When a pet is a source of joy and comfort, the credit goes to the great animal and companion that it is, not to us for being connected to it. We are separate beings who happen to be in relationship with each other. Same with our kids.
Most moms succumb to the temptation to occasionally compare their kids, whether out loud or in their own minds. “This is my most athletic child, my prettiest, my smartest,” or “Why can’t she work as hard as her sister?” I have an overweight black cat named Judy and a smaller calico named Minnie. Never in a million years would anyone in the family say or think, “If only Judy were as skinny as Minnie” or a different color or with different eyes, or quirks, or anything other than who and what she is. We love and embrace them both for exactly who they are. Judy is loyal and kind to my youngest, and a good hunter. Minnie is cute and silly. We can absolutely try to think of our kids along those lines. They have individual looks, abilities, personalities, and proclivities. And they deserve to be fully accepted unconditionally.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t snuggle and pet my animals, speak to them in my high-pitched mommy voice, and simply enjoy their physical presence. And I confess that along with many other parents, I don’t hug my kids and say, “I love you” when they get past a certain age as freely as I used to. They still love it and need it, and so do I.
Lately I am finding myself seeking out information on rescue dogs that need a home. I want another being to nurture, completely separate from me but for me to love and guide, its “weaknesses” exactly what are appealing to me. I can’t wait to find out what I learn.