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I am a Cat Mother

At first, I didn’t really want to believe it. I tried to ignore it, but it didn’t go away.

I suspected it had something to do with Tom’s visits. He comes by occasionally when I have an itch that needs scratching. Sometimes he just comes for companionship, which to him means arguing over the end of a can of tuna.

It figured he would be the cause of this.

I wasn’t one of those expectant mamas who do everything for their kittens: I didn’t get plenty of exercise and fresh vegetables. For me, it was lollygagging and munching on putrid mouse meat the whole way through.

But when they were born… Ah, that was something I didn’t expect. There they were, two little sticky, stinky warm bundles squirming and nosing at me.

I fell in love.

Who wouldn’t? Flesh of my flesh, right? I’d known some cat mamas who loved that smell so much they ate them, but I resisted the temptation. I knew that you can’t have your chopped liver and eat it, too.

I did what any good mother does: I groomed them and fed them and loved them more than I’d thought possible.

As they grew, they became more fun. I’d playfully bat them off me when they climbed on my back, and join in when they were having a tussle.

It would have been idyllic if it hadn’t been for our next door neighbors, the Tigers.

Tiger Mom had two girls of her own, and every time I saw them, I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty. The little Tigers had piano lessons, tap dancing lessons, and school every day. Tiger Mom groomed them perfectly so there never was a whisker out of place. She had perfect little kittens, but how she complained about them!

Of course, as soon as the kittens came, Tom scatted off to greener pastures. Who could blame him? Raising kittens took a lot of energy, and cut into his sun-bathing time. I was OK with being a single mom, but the site of Mr. Tiger returning home every evening from his gainful employment rankled me. I felt like his very presence was accusing me of being a bad mother.

Oh, I have to admit not everything made me jealous. I would never make my little rascals wear those restrictive bell collars. I wanted them to grow up free and beautiful, to enjoy their kittenhood as kittens, not as little, stressed-out adult cats, always searching for the best hunting-grounds.

I also really liked my kittens. Little Tom was just a perfect little version of his daddy, but without the confusing stripes. Mittens was not some simpering girl-kitten. I knew she’d always be able to hold her own. When we were alone, living our homeschooling lifestyle, everything seemed just fine.

But when they invited me over, oh, it was hard. Mrs. Tiger would always tell her girls to perform for us. The piano, the tapping, the perfect mouse pies. Even if they were bought at the pet food store, they were just perfect. My kittens? Well, I can say this. They are happy. Tiger girl #1 would play the piano; Tom would dance on it.  Tiger girl #2 would tap-dance. Mittens would play with her toes and trip her. Mrs. Tiger was never happy with her girls, but I thought mine were just about all right.

Mrs. Tiger always wanted to know my opinion about schools, as if I knew anything about that. “We homeschool,” I’d remind her, and she’d look at me with those crossed eyes like she was about to pass out, and not from bliss. She’d ask me, “But what about their future? How will they get into college? How will they get to the top of their profession?”

I told her I figured that Mittens would do OK. Her mom (a.k.a. me) could teach her everything she needed to know about living off the land (a.k.a. hunting for our food, as the Great Cat in the Sky intended us to do). I told her that I figured Tom would be a scoundrel like his father, but if I loved his father, well, I guess I could love him, too.

Then Mrs. Tiger pulled out her best argument: “What about retirement?”

I swear I probably must have gone cross-eyed myself then. Retirement? Since when did Mr. and Mrs. Tiger know anything about retirement? I have to say that my lifestyle of lying in the dappled sunshine under a bush made me better-prepared for that eventuality.

“Well, Mrs. Tiger,” I said, not wanting any bad blood between me and my neighbor. “I figure I’ll depend on the old cat’s maxim: Wherever you go, that’s where you are.”

Mrs. Tiger looked fit to bust her belly flap. (Not that she had a belly flap; cats like her never do.)

“I guess this is why housecats will never dominate the new economy,” she sniffed.

Then she turned and yowled at her girls, who had joined mine in playing the piano by dancing on the keys. Her girls immediately jumped to the floor, sat, and folded their tails neatly around their front paws. My two continued to make their joyful noise.

Good parenting is all in the eye of the beholder, I guess.

Posted in Culture, Parenting.

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