Aside from becoming a parent, there's nothing like getting a new pet to teach you what you don't know. Or, in my case, a second pet. Because despite my advanced degrees and experience with children, I am apparently extraordinarily slow on the uptake of such things.
If I sound surprised, it's because I am. If it sounds like I have reason to be surprised, then I'm not being clear. Let me clarify.
When Jacob was born some 11+ years ago, life was bliss. A new parent, I was completely in love with my baby. He was perfect. Beautiful. Soft. Scented, with that new baby smell. He slept all the time. He napped like clockwork. He never cried. Really, the only reason he needed us is because I provided nutrition, and he couldn't buy or change his own diapers.
"Wow," I told David. "This is amazing! We should have, like, five more!"
So when Jacob was almost three, we had Ben.
Those who know me know I only have two children. That's because, when we put in our order for a second baby, we neglected to indicate in the fine print that he should be EXACTLY like Jacob in temperament, sleep habits and ease of use. As we all know, the devil is in the details, and so our second baby was delivered on schedule, with a penis and good looks. And that's pretty much where the similarities ended.
Eight years later, they are still different as night and day. All the things Ben has needed in the way of parenting are all the things we never learned by parenting his older brother. And so we continue to learn as we go, occasionally wondering wistfully what the hell we were thinking when we assumed we'd get a second baby exactly like the first.
Like Jacob, Bailey came preprogrammed to self-govern. He is trained to go to the bathroom in the woods, not on people's property. He does tricks. He eats his kibble, but is always up for some celery ends or bread crusts as a treat. He can fetch, loves to play, is silly and goofy and challenges us to new games all the time.
"Wow," I said to David. "Poor Flash needs a home. Why don't we take him? He's the same age as Bailey, and they know each other so well, it'll be great!"
Since then, I have been learning how to comfort, console, encourage, discourage and train a dog. Yes, I had been a dog owner for the previous four years or so. But Bailey was so easy. Just like Jacob. You think I'd have remembered this and put two and two together, but you'd be wrong.
And so, as with Ben, I'm learning how to be a good parent as I go. What does Flash need, what does he want, how can I help make my life and his easier and better? I'm 44 years old and I'm still growing. I love it.
Sure, I could gripe about the noise (wow, two barking dogs are really loud), the mess (I think my sons are training the dogs how to leave things lying around the house) and the moodiness (Flash is confused by the training; Bailey is so insecure, he's wrapping himself around my shoelaces; the kids are vying even more for my attention than before). It's like living in a frat house: me and five guys. Two are short and needy, and two are hairy and smelly. Thank goodness one of them can hold down a job or we'd have to pay the mortgage by hosting pay-at-the-door kegger parties.
Despite all that, oh my gosh how I laugh my way through every day. And of course, being the only girl makes me the queen of the household. So come for a visit any time. Everyone is friendly and there's always lots going on. Just don't mention the tarnish on my crown. I haven't had time to polish it recently, but it's on my list of things to do. Right after I graduate from my latest parent training course.