I am selfish and lazy.
While I have been working since I was 14 years old and like to think I have spent a fair portion of my life if not in the pursuit of bettering humanity then at least thinking about bettering humanity (especially while high, on my couch in the 90’s), I’ve never had real cause to be selfless or industrious. I know that I am selfish and lazy, and not only am I okay with that, I’m thankful that I’m honest enough to admit this about myself. I think if more people did so there might be fewer twelve year olds hanging out in front of the Zesty Mart at 2am on a school night. But what do I know, other than the fact that the universe should be grateful that I don’t have kids.
Mum maintains that from around the age of three I would declare to anyone who would listen that I wasn’t having children. At the time, everyone thought I was being precocious but as the years went by and my stance remained unshaken, adults would chuckle at me condescendingly and say, “Just wait, you’ll change your mind”. But I knew I wouldn’t, and as I got older and the world got crazier it only served to reinforce my decision. Compounding the issue is the fact that I like to sleep in. I like having time to myself. I like doing what I want to do when I want to do it and I don’t think it’s a horrible thing to admit. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like kids, or that I don’t have a maternal instinct. I’ve been told many times that I’d make a great mother and I believe that I would, but using that logic, I’d probably also be a really great crack-whore although that doesn’t mean I should run out and try it. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean it’s to be done.
Not having kids can sometimes feel like the hardest job in the world. I have to fade into the background at baby showers for fear of being stoned by octogenarian aunties who don’t understand why I’d waste a perfectly good uterus. I have to nod in sympathy with my pregnant friends while they describe their morning sickness and not mention that I have a hangover. I have to walk on the road when two mums pushing their SUV strollers on the sidewalk approach because apparently squeezing a child out of your vag means you’re exempt from walking single file, like forever. Yes, I’m being glib, but being child-free in a world full of parents can sometimes be trying, not because I have second thoughts about my choice but because it can be so goddamned dull! Please, please understand, I love my friends and I love their kids too! I’m so thankful that my friends are having kids because my friends are the type of people who should be ushering in the next generation and I weep a little less for the future knowing that these kids are being guided by great people, but jesus christ on a stick I don’t ever need to read another baby poop-related status update as long as I live! I understand that as a parent, your whole world revolves around your child – as it should – and that for most of the time, that world is dictated by poop (literal and metaphorical) which means sometimes you can’t talk about last night’s episode of the Daily Show. I get it. At least I thought I did.
I used to think people who considered their dogs their ‘children’ were a little cuckoo – the same kind of people who wear matching outfits when they travel or give out toothbrushes at Halloween – then I became a Dog Mom and the gods of smugness laughed at me. Actually, they chortled and some TAZO Calm tea came out their nostrils. Within minutes of getting our fuzzy, big-pawed three and a half month old puppy Nick and I were hopelessly in love with her. You could tell because all of a sudden our voices rose three octaves. Having never owned a dog, I was unprepared for many things, mainly how quickly I became attached to Mikke*. All I wanted to do was watch her – eat, sleep, scamper – to the exclusion of all other things. I’d show a picture of her to anyone who asked and anyone who didn’t. My in-laws gave us a wonderful book called ‘Inside of A Dog’ by Alexandra Horowitz ( a cognitive scientist and dog owner), and I learned about how Mikke perceives our world and I became even more fascinated by this incredible creature.
Parents of human children have many months to prepare for their bundle of joy, we had two weeks. Nick built her a ‘litter box’ outside, I made homemade dog treats, we bought the organic food, we invested in the premium pet insurance. For her first week with us I kept a log of her activities – naps, playtime, liquid ingress and egress – to help establish her routine and to try to time her potty training. Here’s a sample, and please remember I was operating on little sleep:
DAY FIVE: 8pm
Nick back from pet store with a KONG EXTREME. Much harder than PUPPY KONG (R.I.P. Puppy Kong April 17-April 22, we hardly knew ye). I went down to rinse out the peed-on rug, came back upstairs with a clean rug, laid it down and within seconds she peed on that one too. WTF dog??? Went to living room with new KONG, fell asleep on Nick’s foot. Adorable. All is forgiven!
What was that I said about talking about your kid’s bodily fluids being boring?
Before Mikke, I was maniacal about the cleanliness of my home. It looked sitcom-esque. I tidied every day then realized I was going slightly insane and the cleaning was just a symptom of a larger, unnamed malaise. I figured what I needed was a little controlled chaos in my life and a dog would be the perfect thing. What I didn’t expect was the opposite of chaos. Sure, dog hair is a condiment in all of our food now and Nick and I relinquish 75% of our bed to the equivalent of an 88 pound midget every night, but that’s just anecdotal to the balance she brought to the world I hadn’t even realized was off-kilter. When I first started seeing my pain-management doctor he strongly recommended I meditate because I very badly needed to relax. I inwardly rolled my eyes. The idea of meditation, or yoga or finding my chi or whatever had always seemed like patchouli-stinking hippie bullcrap to me so I just nodded and pretended to agree with him. What I didn’t realize was that spending time with my dog would be how I learned to relax and be ‘in the moment’. Every day Mikke and I go for a walk for a couple of hours and I’m constantly amazed by how she’s constantly amazed by everything. She’s just so friggin’ happy it’s impossible not to get caught up in that kind of unabashed bliss.
When I didn’t shop for a year, it was Mikke that got me through my weakest moments. I discovered that the times I most wanted to shop were when I was angry or sad and spending time with a creature whose entire existence revolves around making me happy was far more satisfying than buying clothes could ever be. Seriously, all Mikke wants is to make Nick and I happy, and she doesn’t require much from us in return. Mikke is completely devoid of vanity or pretense and that is an edifying example for me. I’m not sure if I would have completed my challenge without her and I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I never knew I could love a non-human with such intensity and feel honoured to have that privilege. That’s something a pair of shoes or designer dress can’t compete with.
Parents of human children have a lifetime commitment and there’s no guarantee that it’s going to go as planned. It’s mostly a thankless task and there’s a pretty good chance that from the age of 12 to 16 that your kids will be embarrassed of you, so it’s no surprise that you have to take joy in the little things like a healthy bowel movement. People say a dog is just a starter for a baby but in my case that’s absolutely not true. Mikke has never had a tantrum. I don’t have to save for her education. I’ll never have to worry about Mikke getting pregnant, or needing braces, or dating some guy I don’t approve of. My dog may frustrate me but she will never disappoint me. I’ll never have to explain terrorism or Creationists to my kid. But you can dream about the day you will walk your daughter down the aisle while I know the odds are very high (but hopefully not for many, many years) that my girl will die before me. If I’m very lucky, she’ll do so with Nick and I beside her. So even though I should be sweeping the kitchen floor and replying to emails I think I’m going to go take a nap beside my beautiful Puppy-Girl.
Because I am selfish, and lazy.
*Pronounced MEE-KA. or MEE-KEH, it’s a German girl’s name but in German it’s spelled Mike, so we added an extra K thinking it would clear things up but it just made us look douchey. Too late now.