Friday, January 14, 2011

Mothering Instincts?

(Because I have no children and can't possibly know what it's like to be a parent) I am often quite judgmental of the parents I encounter. This has led me to find myself sometimes idly wondering what type of parent I would have been had I had any children. For instance, I might think, "Would I have been one of those sorts of annoying parents everyone hates? Or would I have been someone like Zoe's Mom or Danny whose parenting skills I greatly admire?" I have witnessed many, many ways that one can be an "annoying mother," but whenever I've pondered what kind of mother I might have been, I have always prided myself on the fact that I would never, ever have been one of those sorts of mothers who clings to her children, never wanting them to grow up, to go out on their own, making their children forever the ones meant to fulfill some need that's impossible to fulfill. After all, I'm the one who's been known to say, "If they just showed up on my doorstep one day, fully-grown as really pleasant, funny, and fun people, and I didn't have to do all the hard work to help them get there, I'd be happy to have dozens of children."

Well, that's what I used to think. Then, I got a puppy. Although a number of years ago, Bob and I had a dog, we got Lady when she was two years old. We missed her puppy stage, something we always sort of vaguely regreted (her previous human family was kind enough to give us a puppy picture that we still have), but it didn't cause us much heartache.

Enter Clare. I am discovering that I am all kinds of "annoying mother." For instance, do you know the kind of mother you see interact (or, actually, not interact, as the case may often be) with her children, and you have a hard time keeping from asking, "Why did you have children?" I don't feel that way about many, but when I find them, I'm almost tempted to ignore all 1,045,691 reasons I chose not to have children to kidnap their children and raise them myself.

Well, we picked up Clare on December 6th. Need I tell you that December is a terrible, terrible month for a minister and his wife to pick up a puppy? Oh, and that this past December was, like, the coldest December on record? And maybe the windiest, too (or, at least it felt like it)? And that I happen to live in farm country where there are very few trees to block the wind? And then Bob and I got sick? There were some days, I promise you, when I was standing out there in the freezing cold, my puppy practically a kite on the end of her leash, refusing to "do her business" (and who could blame the poor thing, who would come inside and shiver for about ten minutes afterward?), when anyone walking by would have thought, "Why did that horrible woman decide to get a puppy?"

I am also the "annoying mom" who wants everyone to see and fawn all over my puppy, as if no one has ever seen a dachshund puppy before. I practically race over to the manse after church every Sunday to bring her out to the dog run, because I know people walking to their cars in our parking lot will come over to see and comment on her. (Okay, and when they don't, I've been known to take her over to the church's narthex, where everyone is standing around drinking coffee and eating baked goods, in case they want to see her.) And I am that "annoying mother" who over worries and who will, say, if the puppy has been sleeping for six hours straight, wake her up to make sure she's okay.

All of this would be (somewhat) forgivable, though, if I hadn't recently discovered that I am my own worst nightmare -- one of those "annoying mothers" who doesn't want her children to grow up. Clare is now almost five months old. We've had her for six weeks. The other day, she "flopped" her way all the way up the stairs (something a dachshund is not supposed to do. Stairs are very bad for their backs). She did this so quickly I couldn't catch her (so I am also becoming a guilt-ridden mother who doesn't always manage to catch her puppy and keep her from doing things that might harm her). Incentive? Francis's food is upstairs (yes, the puppy who has a terrible memory when it comes to "Indoors? No poop. Outdoors? Poop!" has a photographic memory when it came to "location of cat food," which she remembered within hours of initially discovering it).

When we first got Clare, she could barely flop her way up a few stairs. She'd stand there whining. We could easily catch her. This go-round, by the time I realized she'd hit the first step, she'd made it all the way to the top. Was my first thought (after "Cat food must be rescued!") "bad dog. We've told you 'no' every time you've tried to climb the stairs?" No. My first thought was, "Oh my God! She can climb the stairs all by herself. She's growing up so fast! She's no longer a puppy." This was an absurd thought. The dog is five months old. From everything I've read, most dogs are puppies until they're two years old.

That was bad enough, but then came the next thing. When we first got Clare, if she were sleeping by my side or on my lap, and I had to get up just to do something like go retrieve the telephone, she'd whimper and cry the second I left the room and not stop until I got back. Now, she'll watch for me, might whine a little, but I can go do something like take a shower and get dressed, and I'll hardly hear a peep out of her. When I first realized this, what was my first thought? Forget the fact that it used to break my heart (when it wasn't annoying me) that she couldn't bear to be separated for more than a minute, my first thought was, "She doesn't need me anymore! I've missed her whole puppy hood! I was too busy and too sick to appreciate it, and now it's gone, and I can never get it back."

Yep, Just call me Annoying Mom. If I'd had human children, I would have been the sort of mom I hate. Good thing this poor little puppy has no idea how badly I'm going to screw her up, and good thing dogs are expected to live their whole lives under their "parents'" roofs.


litlove said...

Well it all sounds completely normal to me! And I loved that line about the puppy being a kite on the end of her lead - lol! I think any woman sets out imagining she is going to be an excessively good mother, and then having children reminds her she is only human after all. And normal, human mothers really are the best kind! Those perfect ones are mega-scary, and to be avoided at all cost...

Anonymous said...

This made me laugh! And you know what else? All those annoying moms (or most of them) worry about being good moms. ;)

Rebecca H. said...

I want to meet Clare!! I will dote on her excessively :) I just met a friend's 11-week old Labrador puppy, and it was the most adorable thing ever. I never used to be a dog person like this!

Carrie#K said...

Aw. They grow up so fast.

I wonder if I'd had any children, if I would ever let them go outside after dark?

Stefanie said...

There is nothing like a puppy to give those of us who have no human children a glimpse into what sort of parent we may have been like. After our dog, James and I were glad we had dodged the parent bullet because the poor kid would have been in therapy for the rest of its life!

ZoesMom said...

It sounds to me like Clare is one lucky and well-loved little puppy. I think you're a great doggy mom. I'd have you look after Chief and Zoe in heartbeat.

Courtney said...

I've been giving my dog lots of exgtra attention lately because I feel this odd sense of guilt that soon there will be a baby in the house, taking attention away from him. Talk about SCREWED UP. I've been trying to balance that by introducing him to her nursery, her toys, her clothes, etc but there is something about dogs that can be very fufilling, isn't there? And the best part is the more you love on a dog, the more he/she loves on you right back!

Susan said...

LOL! Your post still has me laughing so hard I can barely write. As one who has three children and sometimes wonders if I am that mother other people point to and whisper about (on my bad days anyway), and having grown up with dogs and having 2 new kittens in the house, I can relate with every.single.thing you write! lol especially dragging your puppy out so other people can admire her. You're so normal, Emily! and a very proud dog-mommy. Enjoy!! they grow up so fast - though sometimes it seems not fast enough....

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, you're right. Perfect moms are mega-scary (did someone say "Stepford"?). And I quite like that kite line myself.

Lilian, you're right. I'm sure almost all moms worry about being good moms. And most are, so you should all stop worrying so much! (Easy for me to say, huh?)

Dorr, she wants to meet you, too. She loves to make new friends.

Carrie, oh, I would have been horrible about not letting my kids do anything "fun," like going out after dark. It would have taken them years of therapy as an adult to get over me.

Stef, I know the feeling!

ZM, and I'd look after Chief and Zoe in a heartbeat!

Court, not screwed up at all. I was devastated as a child reading Beverly Cleary's Socks when the poor cat's world was rocked by the arrival of a baby in the house. I think it's great you're introducing your dog to all the baby's stuff. I imagine he will be a very loving and protective dog to her.

Susan, glad to hear I am normal. I love your last sentence: they do both grow up too fast as well as not fast enough.