If the saying is true, that pets make great baby practice, then I appear to be “put me in, coach” ready – on most days.
On most days, I take care to cuddle, feed, and water my pets. They have toys and space. They are loved and looked after. But on other days, I’m pretty much flunking out: like the Monday I had to take the puppy to the vet because I gave him an ear infection from bathing his face too well, but not drying it enough; or the Saturday I had to confirm the death of our clown fish’s anemone and cringe as Mark netted him out to be unceremoniously tossed into the trash; or the Sunday I wept as Mark boxed our baby bunny for burial, somewhere pretty I implored. Mama had a rough week.
I’m rapidly learning that being a parent is really hard. There are highs and lows; challenges and joys; triumphs and tantrums. I’m just holding onto some promised hope that practice really does in fact make perfect. This is what everyone says, after all.
Fresh out of the practice zone is my best friend of 27 years, Jennifer. She recently had a human baby boy. He’s a soft-skinned babe whose fist is always fuzzy in the photos she sends me so I get the sense that he’s already enjoying life. I watch the videos she sends and stalk photos she posts. I still can’t believe that she made a person and that, from as far as I can see, she’s good at being his mom.
Female best friends have this longing to be very similar. We coordinate outfits; do the same diets; share makeup; borrow shoes; get matching tattoos; order the same cocktails; and even pose the same way in pics – better sides observed, of course. In my usual longing to bear a striking resemblance to my best gal, I started to think how special it’d be if I had a little human, too. She’s at a place I’m yet to be. But as far as I know, you can’t just borrow babies to match your bestie and overnight shipping does not apply here. I needed a new plan. Then I realized that it’s kind of great that she’s charting this new territory first. It’s like she’s voyaging to this dark, mysterious, likely exciting, but potentially scary and absolutely life-changing land and all I have to do is sit back and wait for her to give me the map, inviting me to follow.
Awaiting this treasure map of giggles and baby burps, I resolve to condition my parental skills – you know, put someone else first; exert an unbelievable amount of patience; be bursting with an inexplicable fierceness of love that no one else quite understands; etcetera; etcetera. I recall that back when I was wearing braces and writing poetry, my mama once joked that my twenty-something aged cousin and her new husband were getting a pet in an effort to thwart baby blues. Even then, I thought it was a smart idea; everyone knows that dogs are man’s best friend, but I’ve encountered some real asshole-ish children over the years. Plus, actual little humans still sort of bewilder me – despite my years of education studies and babysitting like a boss – so the decision was clear: a furry fix was precisely what I needed. Consider it a four-legged bridge to a more selfless future.
So, ten days before Jennifer went into labor, I distracted that strange inner “I wanna be a mommy” desire with a dog. But not just any dog, an unbelievably adorable 2.6-pound designer dog that we named London. No bull shit, he looks so much like a teddy bear that his breed is actually called Teddy Bear. Go ahead, squeal with delight – I did. Cuddly sound effects aside though, getting London was a must. I couldn’t be completely shut out from this mom experience – my FOMO (fear of missing out) pretty much dictated that. Besides, a puppy is the only cuteness contender that even begins to rival baby beauty. Bonus facts: I can dress him up, too. Football jerseys? Ugly Christmas sweater? Preppy button-up? Rain boots? You betcha.
One week and three days down the calendar, on October 30, 2014 to be exact, baby Dylan (Jennifer’s human) graced the planet with his endearing existence. And it was just as I suspected; the new mama peered back from the mystical motherland to reveal that this whole baby thing is downright awesome. In fact, she insists that it’s even better than we’d ever expected.
It’s still wild to realize that our conversations no longer revolve around what to wear or how some dude tried to pick us up. Now, our reality is consumed with furry puppy and bouncing baby pictures and our conversations are almost always interrupted with baby noises or barking. We can’t help it, we just go on and on about our little boys.
Despite our boys’ very different genetics, we’re discovering that raising them brings about very similar experiences and emotions. For instance, we’re both totally capable of functioning with one arm. In fact, most of this blog was written with one thumb because my little babe was napping on the other one. Pardon any typos associated with being his pillow. Now ssshhh, the baby is sleeping. We’ve both learned to time our outings with inclusion of all the “ooohs” and “aaaaahs” people slow us down with. Even the grumpiest of people have been brought to a smile in their presence – it’s like watching Christina Ricci’s character, Wednesday, from the Addams Family movie when she tries to smile with all the happy little blonde girls; beyond awkward yet hilarious. Suffice it to say, all the coos and awes have made us more patient women. Additionally, we’ve both admitted to being devilishly happy if our boy whines when we leave him. We think it means he needs us, and apparently we need that. Is that twisted? Good thing I’ve got more time to practice. We also spend quite a bit of time reconciling fears and phobias about how others interact with our boys. I’m constantly freaked out by how often total strangers want my dog to lick them. I imagine this sort of heebeegeebee to be similar to how some moms feel when strangers touch their pregnant bellies, or living offspring for that matter. “Look with your eyes, not your hands!” Huh, I do sound like a parent.
I’ve got to pump the brakes here; the delete button has been called off the bench. You see, I had this whole long list of more similarities, but let’s be honest, raising a human is a game changer. I can prep all I want; I can brush the dog’s teeth, give the bunny lettuce, talk to the fish so that they recognize me, blah, blah, blah, but when and if I actually do bring a human into this world I am going to be a collision of fear, gratitude, happiness, and pride – and that’s only what I can anticipate. Truthfully, I bet there will be a whole bunch of curveballs coming my way. Not to worry though, I’ll catch them with one arm while the baby rests in the other. Mom skills.
Baby Dylan will be 6 months this week. He just started eating solids and naps every couple of hours with the aid of my sleep machine gift. I didn’t realize it until right now, but he’s my best friend’s new best friend. He is bringing her newfound happiness she never knew existed. She is his entire world. They make a great pair. And I have to admit, seeing her as a mother is certainly one of the coolest things I’ve seen her do – well besides that wet t-shirt contest freshman year, that was crazy cool. I won’t even be bashful about it; she was my party hero. But now, she’s my mama hero. At least Dylan scored an adventurous one!
I am a proud Auntie. I have been so humbled by my bestie turned mommy. Even Jennifer is committed to her new role as an “aunt.” She obliges my puppy stories and kindly asks how he is. It’s very thoughtful. I am obsessed with my puppy, but I am so looking forward to the day I can give her the sense of pride that only comes from seeing your best friend over the moon in love with a little human of her own. Until then, I’m going to go walk the dog – he’s potty trained now and that makes me damn proud.