Jeff and I now have kittens. Two beautiful, active, and affectionate kittens. Adopted from litters had by two of my niece cats in Syracuse, the kittens are named Ducky and Brisket. A month into our feline parenting adventure these are some of the lessons I've learned about myself (and Jeff) in the role of nurturer:
1. I wish we had waited until we got the kittens to name them. Not that Ducky and Brisket aren't fantastic names - they are. But, I would have named Brisket "Mr. Softee" and in the beginning Jeff was aching to call Ducky "Crumpet." Kittens, I imagine like children, may in fact be born with a name that the parents have to uncover over time.
2. I am, like Brisket, a softy. Jeff is much firmer about following rules than I am. I imagine this is because I am a parent who works outside of the home. I often say goodbye to the kittens at 5:45 in the morning, only to come home dog tired by 7:00 at night. I want them to know they are important to me but don't always want to sit for hours at a time with them in my lap. So I give them treats instead and quietly - rather than loudly - admonish them when they position themselves to jump onto the dining room table.
3. I am a terrible relaxer. See point above re: not relaxing with the kittens on my lap. I AM finding myself more able to enjoy their antics and to laugh out loud during kitty smack down episodes that involve Brisket leaping off the back of the futon onto Ducky with extraordinary kitty gusto.
4. Jeff and I would be good parents to little people, if we chose to be parents to little people. We negotiated the rules and standards for the cats ahead of time, have stopped to renegotiate or gently redirect the other in times of weakness or in the face of new information, and have been diligent about spreading our attention between the cats and each other. We talk earnestly about their bathroom habits, their play routines, their sleeping patterns and their kitty litter as any new parent would discuss toileting, social and physical development, and diapers. I feel proud of our kitty parenting and believe we will have calmer, better adjusted, and sweeter kitties because of it.
5. We are excellent at cooperating on cat care. We made a list of questions for the vet before our first visit so we were both prepared and could hear the other's fears so there were no surprises with Dr. Stevenson. We took turns soothing the kittens after their blood was drawn and shots were given. One of our kittens has apparent GI problems and we both did our part to handle the follow-up work assigned by the vet. (Jeff's gag reflex, I'm happy to report, is not nearly as strong as mine. Which is good, because SOMEONE had to lift the watery stool out of the box and put it in the clean sour cream container to take the vet for testing.)
6. I actually don't mind the drudge work. I'm in charge of changing the kitty box. DAILY. Which one might imagine would be a drag. But I have so few daily routines that this actually creates an anchor for me in the morning - a time to check in with the kittens (who assiduously monitor the litter scooping to make sure I'm doing it right) and their health. Jeff and I also share some of the kitty care tasks - like feeding them, changing their water, keeping windowsills clear and picking up their toys. I wasn't expecting this division of labor and feel proud of our shared investment in the work of kitten parenting.
7. While we both have worriers inside of us, neither Jeff nor I are helicopter parents. Our side on the "indoor vs- outdoor" debate is not in question. We are clear that our cats will be outdoor cats when they have had all of the requisite vaccinations and are properly spayed (Ducky) and neutered (Brisket). Googling the phrase "outdoor cat" results in a bombardment of messaging about how terrible it is to let your cat outside - they will live a shorter, more stressed out life if you let your cats go outside. You are a terrible cat parent and an animal hater if you let your cats go outside. While the former may be true (and the latter just judgmental BS), Jeff and I agree that a shorter but HAPPIER life for the kittens is more important than a long and neurotic life. For them and us.
8. It is interesting how easily we have fallen into the parent nomenclature. Jeff refers to me as "mom" when he is talking to the cats. Conversely Jeff is "dad" when I speak about him to the kitties. I call Brisket my "son" and Ducky is my "daughter." I don't actually want to parent a human child, but apparently am comfortable with being called mom. Or maybe I'm only comfortable calling myself mom when talking to my cats.
Check back here regularly for updates, pictures and videos. We'll tally the amount of money spent on the cats (more than $475 so far between vet bills, litter, and other start up costs), and share more stories from our little parenting adventure. We're proud parents and can't wait to share our "kids" with you.