The Christmas after we bought our house, we adopted our tortoiseshell kitty Chaplin.
Our neighbors wondered why we got a cat and didn’t opt for having children first (which is traditional in their culture), but we explained that this was our way of getting used to caring for other living creatures in the house besides ourselves. Mind you, I cannot for the life of me (pardon the pun) keep a plant alive, so adopting a cat was already a big responsibility. We were so excited that we shared the news with our friends and family as soon as we had brought Chaplin home. The title of our email: “our family is expanding”. A little later we talked to my in-laws and I vividly remember the excitement of my godmother-in-law (who is Persian), which sounded something along the line of: “Ooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! You are pregnaaaaaaaaaant!!!!! I am soooooooooo happyyyyyyyyyy to hear that! That is soooooooo wonderfullllllll!!” Oh god, she really thought I was pregnant...oops... So we explained: “No, we’re not pregnant. We adopted a cat!” ... [silence] ... My Godmother-in-law: “You what?...[silence].... Oh. You. Adopted. A. Cat....[silence]....oh” There they went. Her dreams came crashing down, they shattered into a gezillion pieces. Right in front of us (actually, about 1100 miles away).
Then came my birthday in June ‘05 at which point our family, yet again, expanded. This time with my birthday present: an adopted Australian Shepherd puppy (Buster).
Chaplin was not AT ALL grooving on this gesture of love from David. “What the heck was that human thinking!?!?! How dare he bring in another 4-legged creature!! And was that anyways? It’s loud, wild, doesn’t have any matters and pees and poops everywhere. Yuck!! The indignity!!” But, the most pressing matter of concern: “When does it leave?” It didn’t, and it took her a while to come to terms with that.
By the time she had accepted this “thing”, a year had gone by and June ‘06 arrived. My birthday gift? Well, my birthday gift was actually a gift for Buster: a brother. We adopted Boomer, yet another Australian Shepherd.
Buster was delighted to have a playmate, another little creature that he could herd. Oh joy!! Chaplin’s take on the family addition? No need to go into that. With a little bit of imagination, you can figure that out for yourself. Go ahead, let your imagination run wild, is all I can say.
In the meantime, we had completely baffled both our neighbors and most likely my godmother-in-law. “2 dogs, a cat, but no children? They have been married for 3 years now, and still no children!? Is something wrong? Strange people, those Americans.”
Another year went by and June ‘07 came around. Over the past years we had pretty much made it a tradition to add to the family around that time, so in that light, it was only appropriate that on my little-milestone birthday that year, I was able to announce that we were yet again adding to the family. This time with a human being. Yes, I was pregnant.
When Kai was born, his arrival was met with a certain hesitation of the animals. Chaplin was disgruntled as she felt that her position in the hierarchy had crashed as much as the economy has at the time of writing this. Buster didn’t know exactly what his responsibility towards this little ‘thing’ was. He couldn’t herd it, couldn’t play with it, it took up a lot of attention of his humans that thusfar had gone to him and all of a sudden he couldn’t be as rambunctious as he used to be. Wha’z up with that?! Boomer...ah, Boomer. Well, Boomer, let’s say is the sweetest dog, but dumb as a box of hair, which results in him living a pretty unencumbered life. His regret is that he wasn’t born a little lap dog. Seriously, deep down inside, he wants to be exactly that: a lap dog. I was destined to be adopted by some rich lady from Beverly Hills who would carry him around in her little dog purse, considering him her ‘real’ baby – yes, that is the life Boomer should have had. Instead, he got us. Not too bad an alternative, but not quite the same.
By the time Ryder came along this February, we pretty much knew what the animals would think about the arrival of yet another creature. The question was what Kai would think and how he would react. In my mind I had gone over so many scenarios: in my dreams he would be excited about his little brother. He would become slightly protective, he would help out with little things like changing Ryder’s diaper, giving him his blankie, and sweet kisses on his forehead. In other dreams (which weren’t as sweet as the previous) he would start acting out, become jealous and start resembling the son of a colleague of David who came over 1 time and who decided that all the toys in Kai’s room were “MINE!!!!”. (Needless to say, that was a 1-time play date and there was no “Let’s do this again some time soon”.) David and I got a lot of advice from friends who had just gone down the route of adding a 2nd child to their family before us and took everything in. We somewhat of a plan, but most of that plan consisted of “we’ll see how things go”. So much for a plan.
Upon Ryder’s arrival, I was relieved that Kai really didn’t care too much. Him not caring lasted for a few months and was perfectly fine with me. It beat the alternatives of being overly excited, wanting to be all over Ryder all the time or on the other end of the spectrum, the jealous brother who starts acting out. Not caring was good. I liked it. Unfortunately the past few months Kai started going through the ‘terrible 2’s’ stage where it was all about defying boundaries (no, I did not say ‘defining’) and testing limits. All of that with a big grin on his face. At times it didn’t feel as if he was pushing my buttons, no, it felt as if I was one big button all together that constantly got pushed. A friend of mine at one point wrote me that she was happy that both her kids were past the baby phase and that no matter how cute they were as babies, she really wasn’t crazy about the baby-stage. She was relieved that they were older now, could talk and reason (more), etc. And I have to admit: over the past few months I often had moments where I wished that the toddler phase would pass as quickly as possible. Instead of the baby stage, I was looking forward to this toddler stage being behind me sooner rather than later.
And then, last week, it happened. From one moment to the other. One day Kai was still the toddler as described above, the following day: completely the opposite. It was as if he did a 180 overnight. He was all loving, kisses, hugs, sweet as could be. He would want to check on Ryder on the baby monitor while Ryder was sleeping. He would make sure that Ryder would come along when we went out, he would bring him his blankie, his paci, his bottle. He would give him hugs and kisses, he was all smiles, giggles and cuteness. It was as if I had a new toddler. And I don’t know where he came from, but all of a sudden I found myself LOVING toddlerhood. Go figure. He has been like that ever since. A few nights ago, he even wanted me to lay down with him as he went to bed. He cuddled with me, took my arm, put it around him and then put both his arms around my neck, so tight, I couldn’t move. Every move, made him tighten his squeeze, like a baby sucking down on a pacifier as you try to pull it out of his mouth. Very, very sweet. Mind you, this is the child who hardly ever wanted to cuddle as a baby and never wants you to put your arm around him . This is THAT toddler.
In retrospect, I do think that some of his ‘terrible 2’s-symptoms’ were in fact ways to act out a bit, now that he didn’t have 120% of all the attention anymore. These days I don’t know what caused what, but since he is in better spirits, I find myself a lot more relaxed as well. Don’t know what came first (chicken / egg), but hey, whatever, this is working for both of us. Trust me, Kai still has moments that make me have to count to 10 (and sometimes 20), but overall, things are sooo much better. He has gotten smart though and frequently tells me that “Mommy, put baby Ryder in the bouncy / swing” (in other words: “put the baby in the bouncy, so you have your hands free for me!”). The other day, as I was nursing Ryder, Kai came walking in, pulling the carrier behind him. “Baby Ryder in carrier, mommy lift Kai”. Smart kid. Come here and give me a kiss. I love you, Monkey!