Thursday, December 13, 2007

In fact, practice reveals a worrying trend

In the flurry of the less-than-one-month-away-panic the Boy has taken to reading a baby book each day over breakfast. As a result, whereas I can only focus on getting the Bump out of me, he is finding out about all the stuff that happens afterwards, and has taken to doing amusing impressions of babies in different moods when we are in the lift in the morning - I think you have to be there to appreciate the finer points of these.

It has, however, got me to thinking about my own parenting skills and how good I might be at this whole parent stuff. The twins for whom I was nanny for three years have grown up to be lovely, well adjusted, 17 year olds with some stonking AS level results. However, I think that their parents can probably lay more claim to how they turned out than I can. So, I am left with how well I have cared for my pets - the closest thing you can get to something that is completely reliant on you for all their physical and emotional needs, except a husband.

I must admit, my track record with pets isn't great. My first proper pets were a pair of guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are unbelievably stupid, and ours kept on either dying or having babies, giving me an early insight into the circle of life. However, Dad built a hutch for them and they lived in the garden. I distinctly recall being given Chocolate, the brown guinea pig, and being told to be very careful how I held her. My parents were clearly worried I would crush her or some such, but had not anticipated that I would go to the other extreme and drop the poor mammal almost as soon as she was placed delicately in my hands. Clearly not a good start.

I then got a rat in my late teens. He came from Harrods and was a pedigree rat, and I loved and adored him. Rats make brilliant pets, they are clean, affectionate and clever. Mine used to curl up on my desk while I revised for my A-levels and sit on my shoulder as I wandered around the house. He was also a very good judge of the character of boyfriends, taking an instant dislike to the more suspect ones. However, I was perhaps a little cruel when it came to naming him. As I was studying Othello at the time I decided to call him Iago. Mum thinks that I gave him an inferiority complex.

When I moved in with the Boy, in the godforsaken part of London that is Croydon, we got two cats. The Boy was working for a consultancy and away a lot and I neither liked Croydon nor had any friends there so wanted something to come home to. We got two kittens, mercifully renamed them from their original names of Ziggy Stardust and Stella Starlight, and they became family.

We have not gone out of our way to neglect the cats, in fact quite the opposite. It was pure accident that Marlow got run over and needed thousands of pounds worth of vets treatment, or that we completely ignored the fact Henley clearly had bladder stones and was very uncomfortable for about 3 years until the vet finally diagnosed it, or that Marlow managed to double herniate when we were about to fly to HK for our go-see and Mum had to take her to the vets. None of these were our fault. Perhaps is it our fault that the cats flew half way around the world in a small wooden box, or that they now live indoors. But I swear it wasn't my fault that Henley died when she last went to the vet for a relatively innocuous operation (she now sits in a small metal box in our soon-to-be nursery and, yes, that is a bit strange but we can't think of anywhere better to put the ashes).

What really worries me, however, is how we seem to have made our cats completely mad. Henley used to revel in a game of fetch and love her tummy being tickled. Marlow chats to us all the time and pulls out her own fur. In fact, there was almost nothing normal or cat-like about them. I am really worried that if this is what I can do to two harmless cats, what sort of damage will I do to my daughter?

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