I always knew I'd never want more than one kid and felt a great relief every time M reached a new milestone. I celebrated the little victories in my mind, 'I'll never have to buy jars of baby food again', 'I'll never have to pretend there's a Santa again', et cetera, et cetera. I really haven't missed any of those times, although I enjoyed them while they were here, knowing that they would go by quickly. Now that she's school-aged and fun to talk to and play with, getting a unique sense of humor and really learning her place in the world, I'm enjoying it even more because I know the next stage is 'I hate you, but can you drive me to my friend's house and then both of us to the mall and then pick us up in two hours? Oh, and I need $50. '
I come from a family of five children and was sort of over the big family thing. Plus, three of those children were younger than I am, so I feel I did my share of mothering over the years. I also felt that M was such a good kid (although a very fussy baby) that any other kid would just be a disappointment. I wasn't secretly wishing for a boy, or a girl whose favorite color was green; I was happy with the half mini-me, half mini-jeff I was lucky enough to get. Plus, after my undrugged natural childbirth experience, I sort of promised myself I would never do that again. I truly have an awesome respect for women who can, but I know I would spend that nine months in an anxiety-attack filled haze, trying to deny the inevitable ending. Although I really enjoyed the wonders of pregnancy, and I truly missed them once it was over (the feeling of something growing and moving inside of me, the wonderful way foods had so much flavor) , I really didn't like the fact that there was no way out of it besides that beautiful life ripping its way out.
But ever since M got our dog Roland for her fourth birthday, I had this plan to get a new dog every five years. That way, I'd never be without a dog. Oh, what a genius I am! Why aren't all canine lovers as smart as me? Without doing any research or planning, M and I came home from a routine visit to a pet store with a five-month old puppy. Immediately Roland hated Jake. Since then, toleration is about as good as it gets. Jake's life consists mostly of finding new ways of ruining Roland's, making sure he has not a moment of peace or satisfaction. While they do unite during territory breaches from alien dogs and they occasionally forget their hatred in the excitement of car trips to the doggy park, I know their innocent-looking, leg-flailing slumber consists solely of dogicidal plots against the other.
It's weird how completely different my relationship is with both dogs compared to when I just had one. Jake will never be the center of attention that Roland once was. Not to mention that you forget, after you have a trained dog, that they don't all just come that way. I have to steal moments away from Jake to give Roland some doggy-love without Jake butting his way into the mix, forcing Roland to retreat. And when I give Jake affection in front of Roland, he looks at me like he just watched me strangle his doggy-mom (which, coincidentally, I threaten to go back in time and do to Jake's mother frequently.) I feel guilty when I can't protect Roland from the craziness of Jake, seeing as he never asked for a twerpy, abusive little brother. Worst of all, it makes me think of how one day Roland will no longer be with us and Jake will, and that's irritating because Roland is a far superior dog. Jake is learning, but he's really not very interested in doing what humans want; he's more interested in doing what Roland doesn't want.
And just recently I realized this must happen to families when they have another kid. I mean, we all know that every parent loves their kids equally, [insert other such bullshit here], but there's no mistaking that there are a limited number of hours in the day. There's a reason that the once-only child will, a lot of times, act out once their little brother or sister is born. It absolutely has to shake the foundation of that bond, especially when you're bringing home a baby that needs so much attention that it turns both parents into walking zombies for months. How could a kid not feel a little pushed aside? I'm sure that there are just as many positives to having a sibling as well; having a playmate you get to boss around, getting an ego boost while helping them learn the things you've already mastered. But I think I would really mourn the connection I have with M now if I had another kid. There's no way it would ever be the same.
So I guess what I'm saying is that my brilliant plan to live dog-full forever has only reinforced my decision to have only one child, while comically forcing me to live on the other side of that decision as well. I wonder if any parents ever think this after Number Two is born, but love Number Two so much, they refuse to admit it to themselves or others. Being that he's a dog, I can say that, if I had it all to do over again, I probably wouldn't have brought Jake home. My intentions were good, though: I thought Roland would love a playmate, and envisioned walking down the street like one of those cool multi-dog owners, all in control of my pack. Turns out, I just have to take twice as many single-dog walks and half of them are spent apologizing to pedestrians and homeowners.
So anyways, grandkids, grand-dogs, whoever is still listening, the moral of this story is: don't ever get a dog from a pet store. Those dogs are effing crazy and will ruin your life. Or maybe it's more something like -- what is that saying again? "Plans are worthless. Planning is invaluable."
The rare times when life lets you follow through on a plan, it's not always what you envisioned.