Some years ago, I was on the phone with my friend Joanna from Philly. As she filled me in on goings on at her office, in the background I could hear her boxer, Bella, making trouble. It sounded like paper was being shredded and Bella was alternately play-growling and victory-barking. Joanna continued her update, undeterred, weaving in a few cheerful threats pointed in Bella’s direction. It sounded something like this:
“I never imagined running into this kind of thing in my career, you know? BELLA! It’s just not something you’re ever prepared for. BELLA, GIVE ME THAT! I wasn’t sure if I should say something or just keep it to myself, you know? BELLA, KNOCK IT OFF! So I went home and figured I’d take a night to think it over. BELLA, I SWEAR TO GOD! This morning, I was still really conflicted about it. BELLA, I’M GOING TO EFFING KILL YOU!! So that’s kind of where things stand.”
A decade later, I now find myself carrying on similar conversations with her while making thinly veiled threats at my own dogs and kids. Much of pet and human parenthood involves managing multiple tasks and conversations like this at once, translating unspoken requests for animals and little people, trying to prevent illness and injury, summing things up in 10 words or less…
Marriage and parenting require putting the needs of others above our own, and significantly change the content and tone of interactions. When Jeff and I first got together, it was all double-entendres and playful banter. Now, I find myself in public places calling out things like “Can you please sniff his butt?” Which may sound perfectly normal to other parents of small children, but when taken out of context, some of the stuff people say in their every day life sounds bizarre to say the least.
Overheard at the playground: “You should pee on him.” (Small child #2 to small child #1) “Jeremy Joseph! Why did you pee on that little boy?” (Woman to small child #1) “Emily! Get your face out of that dog’s butt!” (Woman to small child #2) “Don’t yell at me, Mom! I’m just looking up his address.” (Small child #2’s response)
Overheard at the hardware store: “Oh, I’m sorry, are you pooping? I won’t make eye contact. Do your thing.” (Woman to toddler) “Hello, leash? This is dog.” (Man on cell phone in birdseed aisle, to… ?) “I want to kill the bastard. No fuss, no mess.” (Man to store attendant in mousetrap section)
Overheard at my house (or yours!): “Zoe, you’re an asshole. But you’re my favorite asshole.” (Amanda, Matrimonial Attorney, to her dog) “I love that butt! I’m going to kiss that butt! Bring me that fuzzy butt!” (Me to the dog) “I know it’s super fun to play in the toilet, sadly I’m going to have to lock it.” (Me to the toddler) “Daddy has a tail. In the front.” (My niece to her mom) “He’s allergic to pants.” (My husband referencing our 2 year old)
As evidenced above, I am apparently not the only clown in this circus. After evaluating some of the things I say as compared to what I overhear on an ordinary day, I estimate that I’m only moderately weirder than your average citizen. This is great news.