On Friday, I took my 13 year old dog to the vet. My dog is a Pomeranian, he weighs 7 lbs. His heart is about the size of a 40 lb dog’s heart. When I found out that my wonderful little friend was being killed because he has a big heart, I laughed and cried at the irony.
He’s on meds and we have to have his kidney levels checked periodically to make sure he is tolerating the meds well. He is, by the way. We’re very good doggie parents. We take a lot of pains to be so.
Tonight, I get to go home and make their food from scratch so it will comply with his low sodium dietary requirements. This is a labor of love. He is a living being, he deserves more than nutrition pellets. He is not living in the void of space.
I thought about him today and how he has been with us for such a long time. Then I thought about his little sister, Kitty, who is 11. I love them both so much. Coming home to them is absolutely the highlight of pretty much every day for me. Then I thought about this, that if we had had kids when we adopted them, we would have a 13 year old boy and an 11 year old girl. Then I thought about all the teens and preteens I know now and have known over those years. I think of all the ones I know that have turned into great adults and the ones who, well, not so much.
I was thinking about this because I have had the words a very well meaning mother once told me stuck in my head since I started this blog back up a month or so ago. Let me start by saying that this is a very good person who has a lot of anxiety and health issues. I treasure her friendship and I know that she deals with a lot. So, for any emotional scarring she caused me she gets a pass.
The storms of our own lives often wreak havoc on the lives of others just by having any contact with us. Being a human is about being uniquely damaged and how we face that damage every day. Being damaged by others and damaging them in return is unavoidable. When you learn to accept this, it is easier not to hate other people for hurting you.
So, the context was like this. I was trying to console her as she dealt with excruciating emotional problems and immaturity of her teenage daughter, who became a mother at the ripe old age of 16 and then decided, after years of living with her mother, that she wanted to move in with her father.
She also has a son about 5 years younger. He has adhd and all the issues that come along with that. I see a lot of myself at that age in him and end up feeling a great deal of painful empathy for him because of that connection we share.
I was telling her that some day, her daughter will grow up and realize that her mother is a very good mother and she will come to an appreciation that she cannot come to at this stage in her life of exactly what a mother is and what hers was for her. I tried to relate my own experiences with my mother, who I didn’t appreciate as much until I got some distance in space and years from her.
I also spoke of some issues we had had with my own teenage sister who we were raising at the time. Both of these paled in comparison but were all I really had on the subject. Then, as the conversation progresses, she tells me this. She looks me deeply in the eyes and tells me I can’t understand her pain because I don’t have children and I should have children of my own because I will never understand what true love is until I have a child.
Sometimes people say things that echo through us for a much longer time than they were intended to. This was one of those things for me. It still is one of those things for me and she said it probably 3 years ago. I still think about it. On the bad days I am imagining that she is right, and truly believing she’s right, and thinking of all I am “giving up” by not having a child.
By the way, in my hormone induced uterine mutinies it is always “a child”. It is never “children” plural. Just one. She has white blonde hair in pigtails, just like I did. Her name is Violet after my grandmother. We call her Vy. This is what my imagination does.
I look at my dogs again and anthropomorphize them. I think of my pre-teen daughter and all the things that would be happening in her life. I remember my sister and my niece at eleven. I took them to the pool, the movies, the mall, the zoo.
I think of all the things that happened in their lives that I couldn’t save them from because I wasn’t their parent. Then I imagine being the horrible parent that other people want to save my kids from. I wouldn’t be that parent all the time, just as I’m sure their parents weren’t, but the times I was are the times people would emphasize and remember.
Even when I think of my dogs as human children their ages, I still don’t wish I had had the kids instead of the dogs. Kids can be great, but they can also be terrible. Parents can also be great and equally terrible. I can’t just stop at me having a kid, I am also taking into account that this kid will have me as its parent. The ends simply don’t justify the means in either case to me.
Can I ever really know what love is without having a human child of my own? The short answer is yes. YES, It is possible to experience true love for others without having expelled them from your uterus. Every person takes a village and you are part of that village whether you are a parent or not.