Thursday, July 7, 2011

A baby by any other name...

So now it's me who will be leavin' on a jet plane, off to get Caroline. Since I won't be able to post anything, I am reprinting something I wrote years ago (in 2004, to be exact) because I've been thinking so much about Caroline as a baby. This article, which really captures my life back then, was fun for me to read. And I know many of my dog/kid friends will know exactly what I was talking about!

A baby by any other name...

I sighed in exasperation when I saw the yellow puddle on the floor of the playroom. I then looked into the guilty eyes of my two-year-old daughter, Caroline, who was stark naked, and the patient eyes of our five-year-old yellow Lab, Bo, who was also naked except, inexplicably, for a colorful birthday party hat on his head.

“Who did it?” I asked sternly.

No response. Then Caroline, currently in the throes of potty training, said in a whisper, “Bo did it.” Bo just looked at me, almost rolling his eyes.

This unclaimed accident wasn’t the first time I had considered the parallels of parenting kids and dogs. In fact, it was then that I remembered a conversation I had with a coworker about four and a half years ago. He was telling me about being awakened repeatedly the previous night by his toddler. I innocently responded by telling him that I had been awakened repeatedly the previous night as well, but by Bo, who needed to go to the bathroom four times. He told me his son had drawn on the walls with crayon. I commiserated, telling him Bo chewed a chunk off the edge of our antique coffee table. Getting agitated, he told me his son was lactose-intolerant. I told him Bo couldn’t eat onions.

Clearly enraged, he finally said tersely, “Raising a child is completely different than having a puppy. It’s insulting to me that you would even dare to compare the two.”

Ignorant, not yet a member of that exclusive parenthood club, I backed off. I figured I couldn’t imagine the difficulties one would experience raising a child, so I considered myself lucky to be dealing with just a puppy. I ignored my mother, who said, “Have a baby, for the love of God. They’re easier than dogs.”

I soldiered through the nights of not sleeping, the destroyed property, the incessant barking and the concerns about his weight gain and doggy development. I fought the panic that arose when our boy dog wouldn’t lift his leg to pee and preferred to squat like a girl dog, wondering if he did, in fact, know he was a boy. My husband and I took Bo to puppy kindergarten, then basic obedience classes, then advanced obedience classes – all on Saturdays at 8:00 am. I cleaned up accidents in the house. I read books on the best way to train dogs and I went to health food stores to buy the ingredients to make homemade dog treats. I planned playdates with neighborhood dogs so Bo would be socialized. I hired an expensive dog walker so Bo would be well taken care of while my husband and I worked. All the while, I remembered my friend’s comment, and I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to have a baby.

Then I had a baby.

I didn’t sleep. Everything I owned was pooped on or puked on. To say she cried often is giving her quite a bit of credit. Concerns about weight gain and development ruled the first year of her life. I fought the panic that arose when she tried to dance and I thought she was having seizures. She’s been in Gymboree classes, swimming, gymnastics and music classes since she was six months old. I clean up accidents in the house. I own – and have read – books on every child-rearing philosophy out there. She never ate baby food from a jar; I steamed and pureed organic fruits and vegetables for her. She has a playdate network that makes kindergarten pale in comparison. When my husband and I have something to do, she is taken care of by my siblings and closest friends so she gets incredibly attentive care.

It’s exactly like having a dog.

Bo chewed the heels off a pair of $300 pumps. Caroline threw diamond earrings in the toilet and then used the same toilet. Yes, the earrings were recovered, but it wasn’t pretty. Bo needs a three-mile run every day or he’s bouncing off the walls. Caroline needs a solid two hours of physical activity or she’s incorrigible. Now, I love my child infinitely more than I love my dog. He sank down the priority ladder when I had Caroline, and he’ll be lowered another rung with every subsequent child we have. But that doesn’t change the fact that raising a puppy and raising a child are remarkably similar experiences.

My coworker is now the vice president of marketing for a dotcom that made it. I’m a stay-at-home mom expecting my second child. We live in vastly different worlds, and only one of us spends every day with both a dog and a child. I received a smug email from him last week, saying, “Still think having children is the same as having a dog?”

I didn’t respond. You just can’t talk to people like that.

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