Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Becoming a new mom to a three year-old kittyboy has got me thinking about motherhood.
It's changed me. And I don't have to think of myself as a daughter—as a motherless child—anymore.
My own mother has openly admitted that she had kids so that someone would finally love her. Estranged from her only two daughters, I guess that didn't work out so well for her.
Mom thought we owed her something—and not just a "thank you" at every turn. The only gift she ever wanted from us was money—in no small part because she saw herself as just the "chief cook and bottle-washer." She never figured out that when you're a mom, you kind of have to take yourself out of it.
Yes, one of the reasons I adopted a cat was because working from home full-time is lonely, and I wanted someone or something to talk to other than myself. But the real driving force—the thing that made me desperate to get a cat—was the idea that there are so many out there who need rescuing and who may never be rescued.
And yet, although I adopted a nearly "unadoptable" rescue—an adult, male, black cat who'd been mis-labeled as FIV positive—I don't ever think that he owes me anything. He didn't ask to be born; he didn't ask me to take him home with me.
I make sure he's got enough wet food to get through the week before I fill my own fridge. I serve his meals before I make my own; and if he's not done with his food yet, I stay in the kitchen because I know he'll stop eating if I leave.
The first time he pooped in the litter box, I was thrilled. I've never been so happy to smell poop. And every time he does his business, I tell him "Good boy." Because healthy cats poop and pee, and every now and then my kitchen might smell like litter as a result. And I don't bemoan cleaning out his pan in the morning, because I'm so happy that there's something in there to scoop out.
When he's done with the litter box, and often after he eats, he likes to saunter over to one of my chairs and use it as a scratching post. Oh, he's got a catnip-spiked scratching bed, but he prefers my chair—and he's pulled out a few of the threads in the process.
But you know what? I like my chair, but I love my cat. He can have the chair.
Don't get me wrong: he's a very good boy. He's quiet and cuddly and hasn't done anything worth reprimanding. That is, he hasn't done anything other than what a cat would do.
He doesn't like sitting on my lap or being picked up and held in my arms. But that's OK. He makes me laugh every day without even trying. He watches me intently with those big, yellow eyes. He's still not sure what to make of me. He's still not sure what I'm going to do, or how I'm going to react. But I'll tell you, I haven't gotten mad at him even once.
And sometimes he gets spooked and runs away. I don't get offended. He needs to go hide for a while. It doesn't hurt my feelings. It's not about me. And when I find him in one of the dark, far reaches of my apartment—under some piece of furniture, where dust has collected for five years since I first moved in—I don't try to lure him out. I let him know that I know where he is, that I care, and that I'm still here when he's ready to come back out.
And he does come back out, and presents his belly for rubbing.
To me, that's worth the fancy grain-free wet food endorsed by Dick van Patten, the "World's Best" fancy natural kitty litter made of corn, the odor absorbers, the four cat beds strewn across my apartment (all in one room), and the constant Dustbusting and dishwashing and water replacing.
I never expected him to be any certain way. And I don't blame him for the things that aren't his fault. He doesn't owe me anything, and I don't get miffed if I don't feel appreciated. Why should he feel grateful to me? Being kept safe and well-fed and having a place to go to the bathroom are the basic rights of a domesticated animal. He not only deserves a good home—he's entitled to one.
This isn't just my apartment anymore, or my furniture—they're his, too. He's not borrowing them from me. We share them, together.
I tell him, "I'm going to love you for the rest of your life," and I mean it. I barely know him now, because he's holding back a little with me. He might give my finger a tiny lick with his little pink tongue, and then look up at me to see how I'll react. He watches me as he strokes my arm with his paw, and pulls me closer into his chest. (Yes, he pets me!!)
He doesn't have to worry about getting the sniffles or an upset stomach or knocking something over with his fancy tail. It happens. He's a cat. I'm not going to get mad, and I'm not going to feel burdened.
He's not an inconvenience. He'll never be a disappointment. He's not a responsibility. Being his mom is a privilege—and if I believed in gifts from God, he'd be one of those.
To All the Mothers