i hate the term “fur babies” but i’ve been thinking about animals acting as stand-in children. i’ve decided that while annoying and cutesy, “fur babies” is a fairly appropriate title for the pets of people like myself.
i mean, i like kids just fine. i worked with them for years, teaching swim lessons and working as a leader in youth groups and summer day camps. i thought i hated kids until i did those jobs, and then i realized i love working with them. they’re brutally honest, but never with any devious intentions. i remember when i cut my hair one time, and all the swim lesson kids were shocked. some of them said, “i liked your long hair better.” and i didn’t care that they didn’t like my new haircut, because what i loved was that they were being so god damn honest with me. i appreciated that. meanwhile, all the adults i know would says stuff like, “well, that looks, uh different,” or they’d make some over the top swooning comments like, “no, no, i like it, it really makes your eyes stand out more. it’s just hard to get used to such a big change, i mean, your hair was, like, YOU, you know?…” some bullshit like that. as if i can’t handle the truth that some dowdy middle-aged woman i have zero sexual interest in doesn’t like my haircut.
i’m ranting. back on track: i also love how kids find everything fun. they love the simplest games, even just running around madly. they use their imaginations like crazy. i get a vicarious thrill when i see something blow their mind for the first time. little kids are just awesome.
then they become teenagers.
awkward, surly, gangly, testy, greasy, horny, disgusting teenagers. i’m not interested in dealing with that for 7 years straight.
and then they become adults.
making poor choices when they should know better, consuming like crazy with zero understanding of the effect their appetite for junk has on the rest of the world, having political stances i can’t accept, being boring…most children will turn into a person i have no interest in maintaining any sort of relationship with. i’m just not that good at unconditional love.
that’s pretty heavy stuff, and it’s a big part of why i’m not up for having kids. the investment is massive, and the likelihood that they won’t live up to my ridiculous standards is so high that it’s a foolish gamble.
but dogs, cats, chickens, goats…that’s a whole other story. even as seniors, they are joyful subordinates, content in their dependent roles. they are pleased with the simplest things — walks, laying in the sun, occasional affection from their master. they are perpetual children, but even as such, they are also independent enough that you can leave them at home and not have to worry about the place burning down while you’re out, or your beers mysteriously vanishing from the fridge. in contrast to the high investment and high risk of disappointment of kids, pets are low investment and low risk. i’m sure many would argue raising a human is more satisfying but i don’t know about that. i spend an awful lot of time in my yard, just staring at my chickens as they scratch around and eat bugs. i find it immensely satisfying. i can’t imagine feeling much better than that. and i don’t even have to change their diapers or pick them up from the drunk tank after a night of ‘experimenting.’
really, it’s just the expression “fur babies” — not the idea behind it — that bothers me. i should just come up with a less objectionable term. adopted animal child, non-human surrogate progeny…there, i like that last one. it’s got a ring to it.