I wake up to the sound of my little girl crying. A welcome sound, despite its heartbreaking echoes, because it means she’s alive and well.
I go to her room and we greet one another as we always do – with a great big hug. I ask her how she slept and kiss her temple. There’s just something about that smell.
We wander into our bedroom to wake up Mommy. Giggles erupt and she nuzzles into Mom’s neck, partaking in those sweet morning snuggles that have become tradition.
She crawls to the window and peers outside. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping and I know she wants to go out before she asks. I get her ready and out we go, off to explore the city block that’s exactly the same everyday but somehow different in her curious eyes. She plucks at the grass, splashes in a few puddles, watches in wonder as a robin plucks its breakfast from the dewy soil.
Her attention span is short at this age so we only spend a few minutes outside before heading back in. It’s time for our special Saturday breakfast – something different every week. Today’s menu? Eggs, baked sweet potatoes and a smattering of other veggies (I don’t question why she loves them so much) smothered in a healthy veggie-based gravy. And her vitamins, of course, to top it all off.
We move quickly through our days. She keeps us on our toes and one moment floods into the next. Activity after activity, adventure after adventure. Her mom and I get dressed while she sits on the living room floor playing with her toys. I kneel next to her as I brush my teeth and pick up her favourite plaything, a small stuffed fox. She watches it with wide eyes and takes it gently when I hand it to her. She offers a kiss on my cheek to say thank you and I nod with pride. We’ve been working on manners.
We tell her it’s time to go to market and she nearly trips over her own feet as she scrambles toward the door. She loves the market with all its delicious smells and people-watching opportunities.
We get her settled safely into the backseat of the Jeep. She’s tired this morning despite her eagerness. She was up late a couple nights ago sick to her stomach and she’s still recovering. So she watches quietly out the window, her warm breath fogging the tempered glass. I drive and her mom keeps glancing back over her shoulder. We love her so much it hurts sometimes. Constant glimpses have become as automatic as breathing, those fleeting check-ins as engrained as the alphabet in our heads.
The market is packed and as we pull into the parking lot she instantly perks up from her groggy state. The second I put the car in park she’s groping at the door handle. We tell her to wait in the calmest voices we can muster. We’ve been working on patience.
Mom gets her out of the back as I gather our things and strap on the backpack. There’s still a laneway between us and the market and traffic is busier than you would expect so early on a Saturday. We make her pause before crossing and I look both ways six times as my own father taught me back when I was her age. Only when we’re safe on the other side do my shoulders soften. Tense breath leaves my body. The common hazards of life seem so much more present when you’re a parent.
Recently she’s developed a habit of staring at people. We try to divert her attention by pointing out a myriad of different interesting things but it’s going to take some time and a great deal of persistence. The two pillars of teaching we’ve learned to embrace whole-heartedly. Mom reminds her to stop staring and the gentleman she’s been gazing at chuckles and says a kind hello to her. She smiles back and then distraction sets in as she catches a whiff of the bakery stand at the end of the aisle. It’s difficult to miss.
We saunter toward it and order two muffins for us and an all-natural cookie for her. We hopped on the organic trend when she became a part of our lives and there’s no turning back now. She loves healthy food and if that’s not every parent’s dream I don’t know what is.
She eats her cookie quickly and wipes the crumbs from her small face. That sets off an itching frenzy. She’s been battling seasonal allergies and nothing seems to help except lemon essential oil, which we forgot to put on earlier. I apologize and watch, at a loss, as she rubs her irritated nose and eyes. Mom and I exchange a look that says, “We forgot the oil”. Self-forgiveness is vital, we’ve come to realize. No one is perfect.
We buy some fresh produce and a dozen farm fresh eggs before heading back to the car. The itching has subsided, for now. Good thing, too, because it’s time for her exercise session.
People say we spoil her but hey, why shouldn’t we? She has a lot of energy that we can’t seem to release so we turned to an expert. Like I said, no one is perfect. We can’t do it all.
The session is about an hour drive from the city with a kind young woman named Sarah whom she absolutely adores. She’s always sad to leave and anxious to go back. We haven’t told her we’re going this morning but halfway there we know she knows. Her eyes light up a little and she sits up a bit straighter as she begins to recognize the familiar scenery. We give in and share the news. She cries out with delight and we laugh at her endless enthusiasm.
Class goes well and Sarah reports good behavior aside from refusal to go on a walk – strange behavior for her. Sarah tells us she wanted to stay back and play with the toys, which sheds some light on the situation. We thank Sarah and help a tired little girl back into the car. She’s out cold within minutes and sleeps the whole way home, and then most of the afternoon.
Mom and I watch TV as she snuggles next to us amid a nest of blankets and pillows that she made herself. When we adopted her we were told she was the cuddliest little girl we’d ever meet. They certainly nailed that description on the head. I stroke her head as we float comfortably toward the slow hours of the evening.
She wakes up asking for dinner. We cut up the veggies from the market and bake them in the oven with a chicken breast. We don’t eat a lot of meat, so she’s excited when I take it out of the fridge. Her Mom and I survive on a plant-based diet but we know she needs a little something extra. As it cooks, she makes her way over to the oven every once in a while to peer in at its progress.
Our bedtime ritual is the same every day. We put her to bed together; take turns kissing her goodnight; turn out the lights and leave the door open a crack so we can hear her if she stirs during the night.
Blogs and articles attacking the term “fur baby” have been rampant across the internet. Claims are being made that women with companion animals can’t consider themselves “moms” because they don’t have human children.
Pets might not be human children, but that doesn’t mean they’re not our babies, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re not Moms.
To all you incredible Moms out there, of the two-legged and four-legged species…
You. Are. Amazing.
Emily Watson is a freelance writer and certified yoga and medical Qi Gong instructor. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature and has been writing – creatively and otherwise – for ten years. Off the mat and away from the keyboard, Emily can be found hiking, camping and traveling with her wife and fur babies. She currently lives and works for a publishing company in Peterborough, Ontario.