By Chris Gaffney of Uncommon Discourse
If you had asked me six weeks ago who the saddest people in the world are (aside from those who are actually suffering), there is a good chance I would have answered: “Empty nesters trying to fill their void by pretending their pets are children.”
But now that I have a child, I recognize that I was mistaken, meaning that the true saddest people in the world are, by default, people scratching lotto tickets just off to the side of a gas station cash register.
I’m all for people using pets for affection; anything that brings happiness without spreading pain is a good thing. But I’ve long drawn a line at comparing animals to children. I nearly strained an eye muscle by rolling them so hard the first time I heard the word “grandpups.”
It turns out I’ve given human children far too much of the benefit of the doubt. I’m not even six weeks into raising my own child and I already can’t stop comparing my newborn daughter to a cat.
I have a limited number of past caregiving experiences to draw upon, but the parallels are overwhelming. For starters, cats and babies each sleep all day, demand constant attention until they suddenly want to be left alone, and have a freakish attraction to dangling toys.
I first saw the connection when I found myself sitting for longer than necessary because I didn’t want to disturb my sleeping newborn daughter.
She had finally fallen asleep after rolling around for an hour, making strange guttural noises, and as I looked at her cutely balled up in my lap, I realized I’d been down this road before.
The connection was reinforced by my daughter’s strange habit of letting me know that she wants more food by trying to climb inside my mouth. That is not human behavior, but was again oddly familiar.
It makes me nervous that multiple animals have now assumed there is an ample supply of either milk or Friskies in my mouth. I’ve never once baby-bird-fed a single living being, yet somehow this rumor is getting around.
My daughter also has a cat-like aversion to water. We encouraged this at first because we feared getting her umbilical stump wet. Now that it’s gone, I’m ready to play with some rubber duckies, but instead, our bath time is spent wrestling a wiggling infant while trying to avoid being scratched.
And that’s only an issue because I’m scared to clip my daughter’s fingernails. Partially because putting a cutting instrument to a tiny moving digit is terrifying, but also because I worry about how she’ll defend herself if someone ever leaves the door open and she gets out.
There are lots of wild animals in this neighborhood, and I want her to have a chance to defend herself.
The comparisons are mostly unfavorable to my daughter. For instance, each cat I’ve owned knew the minute they saw a pet carrier that they were going to the vet and would adjust their behavior accordingly by either lashing out, hiding, or urinating on my brother’s backpack.
Yet when I bring my human child’s car seat into the room, she has no idea what is going on. She just sits there, trying to figure out what the wiggly things are connected to her hand. Spoiler alert: they’re fingers.
The car seat comparison is particularly troubling because, for her first month, my daughter was raised in nearly identical conditions to an indoor cat. The first five times she left the house were exclusively to go to medical appointments. Connect some dots here, sweetheart, you’re making us look bad.
I hope she’ll someday be smarter than a cat, but for now, the jury’s still out. In fact, I’ve softened my position that humans are naturally meant to rule the animal kingdom.
Could you imagine a world where our leaders were emotionally volatile and constantly displayed radical changes in temperament? There isn’t enough catnip in the world to get us through an ordeal like that.
This post was originally published on Uncommon Discourse.
About the Author
Chris Gaffney’s weekly humor column at UncommonDiscourse.com won the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ 2019 award for best in its class. Chris is a writer and public speaker specializing at the intersection of creative nonfiction, memoir, and humor. Season 01 of The Uncommon Discourse Podcast is available now on iTunes and Stitcher. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UncommonDiscourse/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/GaffneyCh LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chgaffney/ Website: http://uncommondiscourse.com/