This happens a lot:
I’ll be telling some anecdote or other about my kids, and no matter the subject—whether I’m talking about a funny thing they did or complaining about how they keep me awake at night—a listener will follow up with a similar story. But about a pet.
I get it. I really do. There are plenty of similarities between my kids and your pet. They both eat off of the floor. They’re both so cute. They both bite. They both have accidents that jeopardize the return of a full security deposit. They both get sick at inopportune times and in inopportune places, like the bed at 2 a.m. Or the laundry basket right before work. They both look up eagerly when you say something that isn’t their name, but do it with the same inflection as if you were saying their name. Classic.
I generally don’t mind the comparison. Why should I? Families come in all shapes and sizes, and not all those sizes and shapes are human. When listing the members of her family for a school project yesterday morning, my 6-year-old wrote her sister’s name, followed by “little brother” and then “sea monkeys.” (I cleaned up the spelling for her here.)
Pets are awesome. I wish I lived somewhere I could have a dog, at least.
Pets and kids present their own respective joys and challenges. That’s why today I’m thankful for families of all kinds. Some people’s pets are their kids. They’re expensive. They’re worrisome. They’re affectionate and amazing. And they make me a little jealous, because such families don’t panic when they realize that they haven’t started a college savings plan yet.
And even though pets and kids are different, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear about your animal, or that I think less of you if you have cats instead of children. Not at all. When I talk about how my fussy baby kept my wife and I up for 36 hours straight, and then I’m not super sympathetic when you tell me, “Oh, I know exactly how you feel! My cat wouldn’t stop meowing last night!”—when I, in fact, roll my eyes—it’s because I’m cranky and sleep deprived. Also because it’s not exactly the same. Cats can catch and eat bugs if you don’t feed them right away—though I guess kids can, too. Look, just give me this one.
A particular co-worker of mine and I discuss this topic at length, frequently, mostly because I talk about elementary-schooler and toddler issues and she counters with feline and canine ones.
Just a few days ago, I had shared some antic of my son’s, after which my co-worker immediately related a tale about her greyhound. Then she laughed and—perhaps anticipating a remark from me—said, “No, I’m not comparing my dog to your animal.”
Her eyes widened.
“Child,” she said. “My dog to your child. Sorry.”