I really, truly couldn't have made it through my husband's deployments without the constant companionship that my four-legged child willingly provided. Unfortunately, we lost him last year. The SpouseBUZZ t-shirt babe is missed each and every day.
You may remember that we adopted another child a few months ago. Max is absolutely the cutest thing I have ever seen, but there are issues. First of all, I believe Max was abused in his prior life. Max doesn't like to be held, he hyperventilates when you pick him up, and he clings to your neck for dear life (I have the claw marks to prove it). Also, he's missing a few teeth. That doesn't stop him from biting though, he will occasionally bite toes and ankles. When we first got him, Max was also frightened of his food bowl, approaching it carefully as if something were going to reach up out of it and smack him. It's been several months and he finally eats like a normal animal, but the other issues are still there.
Max is a social cat, he doesn't run and hide when people come over. In fact, he runs to the door when the doorbell rings, so he's not necessarily afraid of people, he just wants to interact with them on his terms, which means laying on the other side of the room watching them.
Last night, I was thinking about how great it was to come home each day to my dog who was faithfully waiting at the door for me when my husband was deployed. The dog who shadowed me all over the house, who slept with me and who loved me unconditionally. I had a living being that I was responsible for and had to take care of and give love to during those long months my husband was away. What a gift that was.
I had something of a panic attack last night when I realized that I don't have that in Max. Far from it. With Max, there is no sitting in my lap, cozying up to me. Max is like a teenager - right now, he sees his parents as people who are supposed to feed him, give him shelter and keep his bathroom clean. This is not a two-way street, and this must change.
So, I walked in the living room and announced that things were going to change around here. Max was laying on the floor and my husband was on the sofa.
Okay, listen up boys, we're going to have a family talk.
Max looks up at me, and so does my husband. I have their attention. So far, so good.
Now Max, I know you had a hard life before you came to us, but I think you've been with us long enough to know you can trust us, and surely you know that your parents love you.
Max begins bathing.
Now see, this is exactly what I'm talking about.
Um, Andi. He's a cat. He doesn't know what you're saying.
Husband. I'm handling this. Don't undermine me in front of our child.
Now, Max. You are going to start contributing to this family. We did not adopt you only to take good care of you. We adopted you because we wanted you to give us some love and attention, too. In short, we are a family and we need to start acting like one.
Max looks at me with that can we speed this up so I can go back to sleeping look.
So does the husband, come to think of it.
Your father and I have been incredibly patient with you. Allowing you space, lots of space. We haven't pushed you to come out of your shell. We've given you time, more than enough time, to work through your psychological issues and become a productive, contributing member of this family.
Max rolls over and pretends there is some bug on the underside of the ottoman that he needs to stalk.
Husband starting to get bored, too. I can tell.
Max, one day daddy will leave us. Then it's just you and me pal. We will need each other. Well, okay, I will need you more than you will need me, but in any event, we need to start training for that day.
Max gets up.
Yeah, that's what I mean, thinking he's coming over to me. Instead, he goes to the husband's feet, curls up beside them and then bites a toe.
"Ouch," says the husband. "Max, you're a little rascal." He laughs.
Do not laugh at his behavior, it only encourages him.
Andi, look, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.
There you go again, undermining me in front of Max. Is it any wonder he doesn't listen to me? Now stop it, we need to be united when we talk to him. He must understand that we mean business.
I am sure I saw the husband roll his eyes. I scrunch my eyebrows at him. Geez, we're a dysfunctional family. No wonder our child doesn't feel the need to listen to us. We're all over the map with him, he knows he doesn't have to take me seriously. He can just run off to daddy who will let him get away with anything.
Now Max, I will take this opportunity to remind you that we went through hell to adopt you. I don't normally like to throw this in your face, but I want you to know how much we wanted you.
Husband laughs and says, "if those people knew you were subjecting Max to this verbal abuse, they would snatch him out of this house in a New York minute."
Abuse? Verbal abuse? I am incredulous! Didn't I just tell the husband not to undermine me in front of Max and he turns around and does it again? Three times in less than a minute. I glare at him as if to say, we will discuss this in private later and he had better get ready.
That's it. I've reached my breaking point.
I approach Max and say, "Max, we're going to have a few minutes mandatory lap time each night. Soon you will begin to enjoy the lap time. I will rub you behind the ears (the one thing he absolutely loves) while you lay in my lap. We're starting tonight. Right now. You will sit in my lap for five minutes and you will like it."
I gently pick Max up and sit on the sofa with him. He sits in my lap and I look at my husband smugly and say, "see, it's working already."
After three seconds, Max jumps down and disappears behind the sofa. My husband gets up and goes to his office and I'm left sitting there by myself on the sofa thinking this is a preview of things to come.
So then I did what any adult woman would do, I called my mommy.
Mom - I am really concerned. I mean, we love that cat to pieces and he thinks of us as people whose sole mission in life is to feed him, buy him special treats and put a roof over his head. A roof, incidentally, that he only uses to nap under because he spends most of his time outside running around with other cats and I'm not really sure what kind of influence they have on him. And to make matters worse, he thinks his daddy is sympathetic to his plight so when I try to discipline him, he goes running to his father. I'm so frustrated and I don't know what to do.
My mom takes a long, silent pause and then she says, "Well, I can't imagine what you must be going through." Did I detect sarcasm there? I think I did. I'm sure I did.
We chat a little while longer and then we say good-bye. I think about my child, the one who is interested in anything that doesn't involve hanging out with his parents and I scrawl, "order flowers for my mother tomorrow" on my to-do list. Then I went back to my empty living room, sat down and thought how much I hate the quiet. I'm practicing for that next deployment.
This mother business is hard stuff....