Daze of My Life: Who's kidding whom?
Daze of My Life
Who's kidding whom?
While seven of us were out celebrating and picnicking and "winering" the other day on for my wife's millstone birthday, the one mother in our group, Nancy, commented on the depth of the subject matter--the economy, terrorism, etc.--of a recent conversation she had experienced with her youngest child (married with children) and only son, Douglas.
One of us, not me, then followed up by asking, which of her three children did Nancy think was the smartest? She answered rather directly, categorizing one child as the "book smartest", another as the "people smartest", and yet another as the "common sense smartest". Upon hearing this conversation, I couldn't resist asking Dina who she thought, among our three animals, Bailey the dog; Smokey the cat, posthumously; or Chester the rabbit, was the smartest. Chester, the "dumb bunny" did not win but neither did Bailey or Smokey get their due as we were all too busy laughing.
And though I was not really expecting to get an answer from Dina, especially given the three categories created by Nancy, I was curious, nonetheless, what her response would be. Other than the no-brainer-type characterization of Chester, Dina's non-answer was very parental. Despite the fact that Bailey, Smokey and Chester are not her children, in the biological/common sense, when animals--not children--are all that you've raised, they become, in effect, your children and in your own way, you honor, protect, and keep them, just as you could your own flesh and blood. And Dina's instinct to not pick one or the other as "the smartest" was telling.
I imagine, as much as possible, parents don't want to show any favoritism toward one child over the other. Furthermore, I would guess it's quite destructive if, in fact one child (or two or three, etc.) is made to feel less equal than their siblings by their parents.
And so too, were we cognizant of such possibilities and perceptions when we first brought puppy Bailey and kitten Smokey (Chester came seven years later) home. Moreover, having twice before raised puppies and kittens simultaneously into sibling-type dogs and cats, we were eager to do the same once again with this pair and parent them accordingly. And in so doing, certainly we tried not to show any favoritism. It's not like we had an outline from our previous experiences, we just tried to show as much attention to one as to the other and treat them equally. And who's to know whether we succeeded or not in providing them the kind of loving and nurturing environment that we had intended. Of course you receive all kinds of feedback, but it's not exactly words of gratitude.
After hearing Nancy's very specific answer to the who's the smartest question, and then hearing Dina's non-answer to the which one of the animals is the smartest question, I couldn't help wondering; if Dina and I had had children, would we have raised them as we had raised our two pairs of animals (puppies and kittens)? And if so, would Dina have had as much difficulty answering the "which one" question if her children had been human instead of having been canine and feline?
Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.