"And I love dogs, so I understand it, but, like, babies are the only types of humans that can be compared to an animal and it's ok."
Jim Gaffigan, "Obsessed"
Any day now my wife is going to do that magical thing that only women can do and deliver a living, breathing human being into the world. It's a heck of a thing. We're expecting child #4 and the wonder of childbirth is still amazing (and kinda gross).
You are gifted with a lot of unsolicited advice when you're out in public and your wife is great with child. Little gems like, "Take it easy! (Gee, thanks, we were about to to run a marathon), or "Trust your body" (yeah, right, trusting my body is how we got here), and the evergreen "Make sure you get plenty of rest (define 'plenty' and, while you're at it define 'get' and 'rest').
You also get a lot of odd comments and reactions. Everything from people rubbing the enlarged womb as if it were some sort of pagan shrine, to people scrunching their eyebrows and pursing their lips (more likely to happen when you are also accompanied by at least two of your existing three children), to people openly questioning your familiarity with basic human anatomy and biology (we were homeschooled, not unschooled). I've thought about creating a pregnant bingo game for my wife to carry in her purse. Not sure what the prize would be, yet, but I'll think of one.
By far the most annoying response is when people compare one of my children, born or unborn, to their pet.
I get it, I do. Mostly. Some people really, really love their dog. Or cat. Or rare Arabian Long-haired, short-eared, three-toed Hamster. For some people their pet is like a child because they were never able to have children or their children have long since left. I understand and get that. This is not about that.
*end necessary caveat*
"They'll keep you up! Just like my little Yorkie, Sugar Lips!"
"Don't get upset about the mess, now, you hear? When I brought my cat home he made the worst messes for the first few weeks, but he got better!"
Riiiight. That's a perfect comparison.
"If he ever escapes from his crib, don't panic. He's probably hiding in one of your slippers. That's where Reginald, my Arabian long-haired, short-eared, three-toed Hamster runs off to when he slips out of his cage."
Remind me again how I know you?
There are some parallels that are valid, of course. But none of them really matter. They make for fun surface comparisons, but that's all. None of them really cut to the heart of what it means to have a baby and raise a child.
Because you never have to worry what your pet will be like as middle school student, or as a teenager, or a young adult. Your dog isn't going to want a driver's license. Your cat doesn't have an eternal soul in need of redemption. Your hamster won't have to ever be given "the talk."
(Please don't ever give your hamster "the talk," please. For my sanity.)
You never stand over your dog's bed after he finally succumbed to sleep, but not before he threatened your sanity and sancification, and wonder if he'll hate you tomorrow because you snapped at him. But I do with my 3-year old boy.
You don't hold your cat in your lap while she cries for ten straight minutes about....gosh, I don't even remember what, and worry how she'll handle the cruelty of a world that often sees women as consumable goods. But I do with my daughter.
Your hamster never comes trotting into the living room, dragging his blanket behind him and clutching his sippee cup like it's the last source of potable water on earth so he can curl up in the couch next to you and watch "puh-buh" (football).
And even when he does you don't get all teary-eyed wondering how much longer your 2-year old will think you're amazing before he realizes what a colossal screw-up you really are.
Pets don't (or at least shouldn't) cause an existential crisis brought on by the jarring collision of your past decisions and future hopes, but that's what children are. They're a walking, talking, reminder of every stupid decision you ever made, because you're terrified they're going to do the same thing.
They're both the eternal enemies of your future aspirations and the best versions of them.
They're what keeps you up at night. In the best and worst ways.
So while they do, like your pet, eat, and sleep, and poop, and pee, and make huge messes and capture your heart, my kid is not like your pet.
Your pet is probably a wonderful companion and great source of joy and comfort.
My kid is not that. My kid is a person, a human being, an image bearer to whom has been given the responsibility of caring for creation, and as such they are equal parts terrible, wonderful, endearing, enraging, amazing, infuriating, and heavy.
Kids are heavy. They weigh on you like nothing else. Because one day, unlike pets, they'll be adults that impact the world. And one day, your kid will outgrow you and not need you to take care of them anymore.
And that's heavy.
Much, much heavier than your Arabian long-haired, short-eared, three-toed hamster.
Wonderful as he is.