Pet Parenting and Human Parenting

I didn’t daydream about bridal gowns or floral arrangements when I was growing up. Instead, I looked at my mother and thought: That’s what I want to do. I want to be a mom.

But when, at the age of 20, I still hadn’t found someone to impregnate me, I took matters into my own hands, adopting two adorable young kittens and giving them every ounce of my love. I figured they would do nicely until the father of my children eventually deigned to waltz into my life.

For four years after that, I dated a good amount of men, but none of them quite fit the bill. For each one, I asked myself: What type of father will he be? And, even more importantly: Will he love my cats as much as I do?

Pet ParentingFinally, I met Michael. He was a cat person as well and, as we made our meandering way through what I suppose you could call our courtship, I saw in him the father he could eventually be.

So we purchased a one-bedroom condo together, said our “I dos,” and even adopted a third cat. And, about a year ago, we started earnestly trying to have a human baby of our own.

It hasn’t been all unicorns and rainbows, though. In the five years we’ve lived together, my husband and I have learned the worst about each other. Not only that, but I’ve been scrutinizing our behavior toward our cats as a possible indicator of parenting ability. As a result, I’ve come to wonder:Will he really be a good father? And, by the way, am I gonna suck, too?

My husband has a short fuse when it comes to the cats. In his defense, they’re sort of asking for it. Two of the cats have spraying problems. One of them is constantly sharpening his claws on our overstuffed, living room couch. Another regularly jumps onto the countertops and tables, shreds important boxes, and ferrets out plastic, licking it until he pukes. The thing is, I get the feeling that this is child’s play compared to what we’ll be forced to handle with children. How will he react to all the little and less-charming things that children can do?

I also hate the way he antagonizes them, teasing them until they struggle and retaliate. Will he train our children to be wilder than they would have been otherwise?

Finally, I worry over his obvious favoritism. Our youngest has him wrapped around her little, diva-like paw. Is he destined to spoil one child and neglect another?

Then there’s me. If I sense the slightest shift in a cat’s behavior, I’m terrified that he’s contracted some terrible, life-threatening disease. Will I be a neurotic, overbearing, helicopter mom? And what about the way I tra-la-la through their every misbehavior, unable to scold them or do anything that would in any way diminish their unbridled happiness? Will my children walk all over me? Will I have to rely on Michael to be the disciplinarian? Will my son and daughter be misbehaving lunatics?

Michael insists we’ll be okay. And maybe he’s right.

Maybe his attitude toward misbehavior will help him teach our future children right from wrong. Maybe they’ll end up being perfect angels, despite my own inability to scold. (One can only hope.) And Michael’s capacity for love is undeniable. When I squint, I can still see the father I always saw in him.

As for me, my mothering instincts will probably do my children well, as will my ability to forgive anything, and love unconditionally. (I type this with two, parallel gashes marring the palm of my hand… and the offending party sitting blissfully beside me.)

My husband and I are complete opposites when it comes to our treatment of the cats. Maybe this will lead to a perfectly balanced upbringing?