Babies are not Pets

This particular post is dedicated to everyone who has asked me what it’s like to be a mom: friends curious about babies, sisters who are trying to have babies, brothers who aren’t trying to have babies yet (I hope), and various people infected with baby-fever.  They all want to know,
“Eden, what’s it like to be a mom?”

Why ask me? (That’s not what I say, but it’s definitely the first thing I think.) Why not someone else who is obviously doing a much better job, maybe even someone who was cut out for this line of work? I can name ten of those moms off the top of my head.

Why they ask isn’t the point. The point is that they do ask. Even more so, the point is that, when I tell them, they don’t believe my answer.  I don’t have any motivation to lie to you. Please believe me: Being a mother is weird.

I realize that’s not what Google will tell you if you ask, but it’s true. Try to imagine this: You have this lump that breathes and eats and poops and cries. That’s all it does for three or four months. You get stressed out if it does one of these functions too much or too little because that’s really all it does. Then one day this lump smiles. You realize, “Hey, it’s not just a lump! It likes me!” Not long after that, it starts moving around when you lay it down. You think, “You know what, it’s just like a cat. I feed it, clean up after it, pet it, share my house with it…” but it isn’t like a cat because, pretty soon, what used to be a lump starts making sounds.

“That’s not so weird, eden.” Let me finish.

This thing that, just a few months ago, you were begging, “Please, just tell me what you want, I don’t understand what you want!” starts talking to you.  Not just, “Feed me, hold me, change me!” Now it’s telling you things like, “That’s an animal, I like blueberries, good morning, read me this book.”  Your cat has never been interested in saying anything to you except “Refill my food, pet me.”  And your cat sure never got your jokes, which is what’s about to happen with this thing that used to just lay on its back and stare at you.

“I guess that’s a little weird.”

Wait! Now this thing that used to be an immobile, crying lump wants you to laugh at its jokes. It gets mad or feels disappointed. Its feelings get hurt. It smiles for no reason or makes an expression you’ve only seen on adults. It talks in its sleep. It wants to hug you. It wants to know what you’re doing.  It wants you to know what it is doing.

Pets stop learning after a point. Who knows why? Maybe they’ve satisfied their curiosity with life, maybe they’re at the end of their intelligence. Whatever it is, they’re done. Babies don’t stop. They just keep going from lump to creepy-crawly to tiny person and whatever lies beyond.  Watching that is weird.

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