Sunday, January 29, 2012

Parenthood... sort of

I have spent a large chunk of my adult social life surrounded by people with whom I have very little in common.


Now don't get me wrong. I like parents. I have two of my own, in fact. I even like children. As long as they belong to other people who aren't me.

The simple fact is that I am not a parent. Quite by choice, thank you very much. And believe me when I say that it can be a little lonely when you are the only DINK* living smack in the middle of downtown Reproductionville. Especially if you get invited to a baby shower (which I will freely admit is my own private hell - and no, I will not be insulted if you do not invite me to yours).

I mean, when you are child-free, what can you possibly contribute to a discussion between all your girlfriends reminiscing about their labour pains? And what opinion could you possibly offer during a lively dinner party debate about public versus private education that any of your parent-friends would take seriously? And how many times can you fake interest in hearing about little Johnnie's latest school yard antics? (I'm going to hell for admitting to that last one...)

All this to say that sometimes, I just need a break from the child-loving among us. It's nothing personal. I love you all very much. It's just that sometimes, it's fun to talk about, you know, me.

Which is why I found myself having the time of my life last night when hubby and I hosted a tapas and wine party chez nous, with fellow child-free friends. Not friends who left their children at home with a sitter so that they could go out. Not friends who are actively trying to conceive. Actual living and breathing friends who chose to not be parents. Weirdos, just like Hubby and me.

And so, the word "child" - or any derivative thereof - was not uttered even once all night long. Instead, we talked about wine, about food, about trips we'd taken recently, about upcoming trips, about work, about sports, about music, and...

...about dogs.

In fact, there was A LOT of talk about dogs. Because aside from being child-free, it just so happens that the entire crowd last night was made up of dog owners.

And so we exchanged stories about our training experiences. We talked about what food we feed our dogs. We compared notes on vets. We shared embarrassing stories about bad doggy behaviours. And we pulled out our blackberries so that we could arrange play dates.

As for the Beast, well, he got showered with attention all night long. He was surrounded by willing fetch partners. No matter what corner of the room he found himself in, someone would reach out and give him a bum rub or an ear scratch. He was called "good boy" more times last night than he has been since arriving here 8 months ago. Indeed, he was the life of the party!

It was just after I finished up proudly showing off all of the new tricks that he has learned over the past three weeks that it hit me: I am no better than a parent. I had allowed our dinner party conversation to become monopolized by talk of dogs. I let the Beast take centre stage and woo all the guests. And even worse, I was parading him around like a puppet, demonstrating what a perfect little creature he was because he could roll over on command.

When exactly did I go from super-cool DINK to crazy-dog-person?

The answer: pretty much the day he came home. Since then, I have done all of the typical parent behaviours that I have always claimed to either not really understand or to even find slightly annoying:
  • I've taken hundred of photos of the Beast, and either shared them on Facebook or shown them to friends, families and colleagues.
  • A good 75% - if not more - of my Facebook status updates have been about him.
  • I found us a dog-sitter so that he doesn't have to spend evenings alone when we have to go out to a weeknight event.
  • I've said no to going out on weeknights when the dog sitter has not been available, so that he would not have to be alone.
  • I brag about how smart/handsome/athletic he is on a daily basis.
  • I've enrolled him in an agility class, and I tell everyone that I just know that he will be the best student there.
  • I show him off at dinner parties.
  • Whenever someone asks me what is new in my life, I find myself telling them something about the Beast.
  • I somehow always steer our book club conversation to dog-talk, even though not everyone there is a dog owner.
Yep. I've turned into a new variety of parent. A "fur-baby" parent. Which, I am sure, must be a wee bit annoying to those among my social group who don't have dogs, don't ever want a dog, or don't really like dogs.

Will this make me stop talking about the Beast or stop posting pictures of him to Facebook? Probably not. But hopefully, I will catch myself before I roll my eyes the next time I find myself stuck in a conversation about disposable vs. cloth diapers at a baby shower.

*DINK = double income, no kids