Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Difference Between Children and Cats

Earlier this week I was in Paris (which was fun) and then later in the week I caught some kind of cut-price bubonic plague (which was not fun). All that to say, there hasn't been much going through my head recently except first champagne and then mucus. (Not simultaneously, because that would be gross).

So I've really only had one thought lately, and here it is.

Pink is at that very didactic stage where she has to explain everything, very clearly, to everyone who will listen. Her favourite right now (which I love, don't get me wrong) is that we are in a family. She says this many times a day. She points at me, saying you, and me, and Daddy, and Blue, we are all a family! And then she always says AND THE CAT! The cat is in the family!  

old, but one of my favourites
If this is true, the family isn't looking so good at the moment. I'm ashamed to say that we have a really badly behaved cat. His main vice is that he looooves to be on tables and countertops:  licking our food, drinking the milk from our breakfast bowls and shedding his hair all over the surfaces where I prepare food. It's not pretty. It's a little embarrassing, when other people see it (or realise they've just eaten something that was a little hairier than they expected). I do try to make him get down - mostly by shouting get down, cat! from halfway across the room, which works about as well as you'd expect. Mostly, I just let him get on with it. It's easier to let him misbehave and then clean up the mess later. I'm sure there are things that I could be doing to stop him, but I don't, because I don't really care. I mean, I care, but, you know, I don't really care. 

I'm ashamed to say that sometimes I also have really badly behaved children. Their main vice, I suppose, is that they are three, and they want to be boss. It's not pretty. It's a little embarrassing, when other people see it (and I broke my no-crying-in-the-supermarket-for-a-year streak a few days ago when a nasty old lady told me you need to control your children as Blue shouted I waaaaaaaaaaaant to gooooooooooooooo toooooo a CAFE! over and over again. What cosmopolitan tantrums. How delightful. Not).   I do try to manage their behaviour, of course. Nobody wants be the eye of that particular cyclone. But he didn't get his way, and he was the recipient of one of our standard were you trying to be the boss? / yes /are you the boss / no / who is the boss/ mummy and daddy are the boss /  is it your job to be in charge / no / what is your job / to be obedient and polite / were you obedient what do you need to say to mummy ... etc, etc etc routines once we got home. Which, for the record, I'm pretty sure I could do in my sleep.

None of that is fun. I am so tired of it. To be honest, often, I would rather let him misbehave and clean up the mess later.

This morning, we were eating our breakfast and I was still plague-weary and the cat was making more of a nuisance of himself than usual and I sort of half-waved a hand in his direction and groaned and then just let him be. And then Pink did something she isn't allowed to and had to apologise straight away and I realised that it must be hard for them, sometimes, seeing the cat get away with all kinds of nonsense while they spend their days in preschooler bootcamp. (They do get a lot of love, honestly. And they rarely have to bathe, so it's not all tough around here). 

And I realised why they get - why they need to get - such different sides of me. I can parent my cat to suit my own convenience, but I need to parent my children to produce character. I need to discipline my children now so that they will learn self-discipline for adulthood. I owe it to the world to moderate their behaviour, and I owe it to them to shape their character. They aren't in this family for my benefit, unlike my cat.

And I knew this- of course I knew this, and I've said these kinds of things to myself in a hundred different ways many times before today. But right now I have a particularly vivid picture of how I don't want my children to turn out. I don't want to be letting them slop all over the world's countertops. I will clean up their mess now - I will make excuses for them - I will pretend that they aren't doing anything wrong, but one day they may want to drink metaphorical milk out of the metaphorical world's metaphorical cereal bowl, and dagnabbit I mustn't let them.  One day they'll be out on their own without me and they are going to be facing down that bowl full of someone else's milk and they have to be able to choose not to lap at it - and they will have to be equipped to make their own self-disciplined choices because I won't be there to tug on their collars. Metaphorically speaking, of course. My children don't wear collars.

So. Tiring, yes it is. And next time I have the choice of dealing with something or letting it slide, I need to remind myself - get your head back in the game, Claudia. Parent your children now for character later. Don't treat them like a cat.


  1. I LOVE this post!!!! I so agree with this: "I need to discipline my children now so that they will learn self-discipline for adulthood. I owe it to the world to moderate their behaviour, and I owe it to them to shape their character. They aren't in this family for my benefit, unlike my cat."
    I think I want to print that out and shove it in peoples' faces when they think I am too stern. I am doing this for the benefit of the future society, people!!! Good job, Claudia!

  2. Oh, how I relate! J has accused me of loving the dog more. Because when the dog acts like a jacka$$ while the mail man is outside, I yell, and yell, and yell, but ultimately do nothing. When J acts like, well, a jacka$$, there are Consequences (with a capital C). Hard to explain that it's because I love him more...

  3. Lol. I think you just described my household to a T (although my plague was last month and luckily I haven't had any nasty old ladies say anything like that to me, but iI'm certainly overdue). My 3-year-old is also very obsessed with this idea of family and always includes the cat and dog, proudly announcing that "the whole family is together!"
    Yes, I wish I could be as lackadaisical with my kid as with my animals (although I do let him pee on the grass occasionally), but I guess it would behoove me to not send a wild animal out into the world. The truth is, the more he can conform with social norms and not display any wild animal tendencies, the kinder life will be to him and that alone is worth it.

  4. My son describes our family as 'one mommy, one boy and one cat'. The cat is an essential part. We need someone more destructive than the son. One more reason children get more correction than cats: correcting cats is a complete and utter waste of time. The children have the ability to learn and cooperate. The cats don't give a hoot and will do what they what regardless of the effort you put in. I am confident that my son can someday be in the same room as a glass vase without incident; I have no hope whatsoever the cat will ever reach that stage unless and until he is immobilized by old age.

  5. I loved your gentle hands tip from AGES ago which I stole and used very successfully for a long time. Now I'm stealing the boss routine!!!

    D said to me the other day that when he was growing up he was the most stubborn in his house. I laughed so hard I nearly peed because............. he has so met his match in our family. We are all 3 more stubborn than he is :)

    I really need to practise the boss routine with C tonight.

  6. I swear there are all kinds of little sayings and mantras I need to have tattooed on my wrist or someplace I can see them all the time when I, too, am weary from repeating myself for the zillionth children are not like my little four pound chihuahua who gets away with EVERYTHING because she is "just a baby" (my words, for a 14 year old tiny dog). But yes, I can parent her for convenience but not those two little todbots!

  7. love love love it! (and so agree;)). And collars....hmmmm....(joking!! of course;)

  8. I've been trying to explain to Zinashi lately why we give the cat different consequences than she gets. I told her that people generally frown upon parents locking their children in the bathroom overnight, but she insists that she would be fine. She could sleep in the bathtub, you know!

  9. I have nothing to add except that I LOVE READING YOUR WRITING. And I'm glad you've gotten over the plague. And my boys would like to be the boss, too. We're adding a puppy to the mix soon, and I can just imagine how it will complicate our delicate balance. However, I do frequently hear the boys talking to their stuffed animals like we talk to them. "Now Monkey, don't be bossy with your body." "Pip, you aren't showing respect with your face." etc. etc. Does this mean they'll soon be disciplining the puppy by taking away TV? Probably....

  10. Oh man, Claudia -- I am so there with you. I'm always so focused on damage control, not looking like an ass in front of other parents, getting through the check-out line, etc -- that I rarely do take the time to really think through what I'm doing in terms of building character, teaching life lessons and whatnot. I'm also prone to abusing lollipop bribes, which I'm sure is wrecking my kid's teeth too.

    The "bossy" thing -- yeah. That drives me bananas. I didn't realize it is such a "3" thing. Sometimes it can be cute, but often not. Yeah.

    We have two (frequently puking, stinkiest-pooping-ever) cats in a tiny apartment and they really annoy me since having a kid, which I feel guilty about as well. I don't even try to control their behavior -- they walk all over me too.

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  12. It is so refreshing to read one of your posts. Your writing is wonderful, Claudia. I am remembering this in a haze, but I read recently that the biggest predictor of how our kids will fare in the world is how we face it, and not the things we we say to them over and over. That made me feel better and worse at the same time because I tend to always be telling them what to do. Not sure that the answer is for them to act like me! Maybe they are screwed either way and I might as well put my feet up and read blogs?

  13. Love this post--we treat our animals completely differently as well--obviously--but our kiddo hasn't really caught on yet. He will. He's just starting to understand the concept of "fair", so it should get interesting fast. I LOVE the pic of Pink and your kitty. So cute!!


Over to you!