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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Pet Child Comparison

Why do people compare having kids to having pets? I'm not talking about the people that call their pets their fur babies. Although I don't understand that either, I'm not about to tell someone about their own level of affection. I figure, they're either people who haven't had kids who feel their love would be the same, or they're people who have had kids and, in their opinion, their feelings are the same, or, rather, certain aspects of their feelings are the same. Not my business.

What I really take issue with is the saying "having a dog / cat is like having a permanent three year old." Now we're not talking about affection, love or emotional attachment. Now we're talking about pure experience. I've heard this saying from many people. Strangers on the street, childless friends, and even my own mother, who must have forgotten what having a three year old is really like.

Now there are some similarities. Pets can get into things and make a mess. Pets can pee on the carpet. You have to keep an eye on pets so they don't run into danger. We can't fully understand them and they can't fully understand us, so a fractured language is used. But day to day, I feel the responsibility much greater for a kid.

How often does your pet cry? They do cry, in their way, especially puppies, especially when night training, if you aren't allowing them to sleep in your bed. But how long does that painful period last? A few weeks at the very most. And when your pet is unhappy about other things, you can usually get them what they want or distract them easily. If your pet is thirsty or hungry or wants to play, you can fetch them a drink, some food, or play with them for a few sparing minutes and they move on. Rare is the occasion where a furry friend will completely meltdown because the food you gave them is an unsatisfactory color or because you won't let them play with the butter.

Which brings up my next point. Pets, after a brief training period, listen to you. They listen to the word no. Even if they don't, it's easy for you to take away whatever they are doing, or put them in another area without garnering resentment or temper tantrums. Pets forget. They move on. When you tell them they can't run away, they might still try, but at least they don't make the time they're not pursuing that desire miserable for you.

While you can talk to a pet and they can understand basic commands and they have a certain empathy, sometimes knowing when you are having a rough day, you can't really talk to a pet. Nor do you have to. There is a running ridiculous dialogue in this house every minute of the day. "Yes, you're a butterfly. Quick give daddy butterfly kisses. No the sprinklers are not for butterflies. No, it doesn't matter if you're a lion now. Sprinklers aren't for lions either. Why don't you play with your blocks? No, don't throw your blocks. Pick up your blocks. If you want to bring your blocks outside, we have to wear shoes. No, my shoes are too big. You need your own shoes." And that's giving them a lot of credit, assuming they stick to the same train of thought for more than 30 seconds.

From my experience a conversation with a pet goes like this: "Hi, you! You're a good boy! I love you! Aww, pet pet pet. Okay, go lay down."  Shorter and sweeter, no? Pets listen to you and don't require a reason for every decision you hand down to them.

While having a pet ties you down more than not having a pet would, you can leave a pet for hours on end and not have to worry about him. You can say goodbye to him in the morning, go to work, come home eight or ten hours later, and everything is fine.  As a parent, you can't even run downstairs to throw a load of laundry in the wash without worrying about what your kids are up to. Any absence longer or farther than that and you need childcare.

Most importantly, you have to worry about your kids' future in a way that's not really applicable to pets. As parents, we have the responsibility not only to get through everyday with everyone alive, but we have to shape those days to make different tomorrows. We have to teach children how to become responsible adults. So that the very thing that makes the statement "having a pet is like having a perpetual three year old" correct (the fact that you never have to worry about them growing up to be productive members of society, so that they're stuck in a blissful toddlerhood, is the very thing that proves it false. The very fact that three year olds are not perpetually three years old changes the dynamic of having one because you have to take into consideration not only the irrational cute little beings they are now, but also the rational beautiful big things they will become.

So, yes, there are a few similarities, but only on the surface. In my experience, having a child is simply not comparable to having a pet. But your mileage may vary.


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10 comments:

  1. Having both a dog and a child I can tell you that my dog listens to me more. My son is still unable to communicate with me but we know that with patience and hard work (just as with the dog) our son will understand us.

    I do think having pets before children was good "practice". We had to be up every couple hours while house training our dogs. One of our kittens still needed nursing when we got her and had to wake up to make sure she was being fed.

    Taking items away from a dog isn't that easy either. We have a Dachshund and he can still be pretty nasty if you're trying to take his bone away. Our current dog doesn't care if I'm upset where as Garrett will come and snuggle me to make me feel better.

    It's not the same, but it's also not that different. It's not something someone without a pet would understand. When you're raising both a child and a pet at the same time you see the similarities. And truthfully in time Garrett will talk to us and tell us what he needs, he'll get things himself and be self sufficient. Our dog never will.

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  2. I've seen people have some pretty needy pets, but even the neediest pets don't come close to the amount of energy required of a child. Maybe we are just really lucky with our dog? He just does what he is told, goes and does his own thing, we can leave him for hours on end and he doesn't get upset or in any trouble. When we go on vacation we can either pay to send him somewhere or a friend can take him. He eats once a day, you make sure he has water and walks and that's just about it. He plays really nicely with Aias and other kids, too. I can't imagine a child being that easy. Sometimes he's a pain in the ass or whatever, but it's not comparable to the effort of Aias and a tantrum. Plus the dog is crate trained, so if we say "go in your house" he just happily goes. I can't imagine how well it would go over if we crate trained a child O_O!

    I remember specifically THINKING dogs were a lot of work before having Aias, and then realizing I had no idea what I was thinking comparing the two haha. Granted, they are an entirely different species. There's also a lot more at stake if you fuck up your kids =P

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  3. I call my pets "fur babies" because for me, they are the closest thing I ever want to actual babies.

    And I always joke that I can't have actual kids because unlike my dog, when I want to go out somewhere, I can't lock them in a crate. lol.

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  4. The thing I miss the most about my pre-kid days is being able to wake up on a Saturday morning and go and veg on the couch for a few hours (or all day...). However, I could have 100 cats and still be able to do that.

    So, yes, I definitely agree with you here. :)

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  5. I have one friend who has a serious problem making this distinction. If she compares training her dog to raising my child ONE MORE TIME, I'm going to make her trade for a weekend and ask her if she still thinks it's the same amount of effort. Though I'm a little afraid that she'd put my kid in the crate...

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