What to expect, the first year.
(“You mean besides you, Quinn?”)
(“Oh, shut up.”)
What’s annoying is when you say something sort of topical and you hope a little funny to a friend, and they look at you with pity and say “…yeah, I read that in the blog”. Well, damn it, if there was no Internet, I could have gotten at least a weeks’ worth of entertainment value out of that line.
And then when you try to cover yourself and before you tell the same anecdote say to another friend “Have you read the blog this week?”, only to have them look at you with pity and say “…I’ve been really busy…”, which leaves me feeling as if I am Norma Desmond from the movie Sunset Boulevard, asking which of my movies they want me to screen for them. I don’t need validation! I don’t want your love! I just want to make sure I’m not repeating material!
This is my way of saying if you know me personally and have heard this already, go shopping at EBay or go to http://www.awfulplasticsurgery.com/.
Let me tell you about raising bottle-fed kittens. It’s human infancy, only incredibly fast. They arrived at less than two weeks old, which translated as about three months’ old for humans. They ate enthusiastically but ineptly, their excretory system was a dark but volcanic mystery to all involved and they were lovable only to those who cleaned up their vomit. They didn’t walk or crawl. Wherever you left them, you found them when you came back. In fact, they resembled nothing so much as those eye bags you put on to relieve puffiness, only in fur and not satin, and with the capacity to vomit.
A week passed. They started staggering around in a way which expended as many calories going side-to-side and up-and-down as forward. You could call it “Toddling”; you could more accurately call it “Careening”. Finally, they understood the bottle. In fact, they got quite violent in their love for it. One morning, they all got their teeth. That afternoon, I went through four nipples in five minutes while each one figured out that pulling the food source really hard and yanking led to a face-full of formula. A side note about the formula; Consort is breathtakingly patient with all my myriad quirks, but after a couple of days of feeding the kittens, he told me he knew as soon as he walked in the house whether I had closed the container of formula. It smells just that bad. Kittens who tear the tops off rubber nipples and end up getting a formula facial have frequent baths. Baths immediately after eating says year-old humans to me. Much as when Daughter was that age, I bought toys. Much as when she was a year old, they preferred chewing on me.
Another week passed. They were now the equivalent of a two year-old. As with my original two year-old, I was counting the minutes until they could figure out how to go to the bathroom on their own. Much as with humans, they would show moments where it seemed as if toilet-readiness was mere seconds away. One would go on slightly-less-wobbly legs towards the litter box, with something nearly resembling a look of intent on his face. I’d stand frozen, fearing any movement would distract him. He’d get within an inch of the wee little kitten litter-box, stare off into space for a second, abruptly pee on the ground, and weave off again, screaming. Add a Big Gulp cup filled with beer cradled in his front paw, and it’s every fraternity party I ever attended.
They were eating wet food, albeit mixed with their formula, which means they were now wearing their wet food, albeit mixed with formula. Whether you are a four week-old kitten or a two year-old human being, the impulse towards food remains the same: “Gloppy food? I need to wear that!”. Week four was the Sisyphean task week:
Take four kittens, covered in food in, shall we say, all of its digestive stages.
Carefully bathe one at a time in warm water using soap specifically geared towards tiny kitten bodies.
Rinse them as they scream in horror and use their tiny-yet-lethal claws to try to rappel up your arm.
Remind yourself, again, to wear a long-sleeved shirt for this task.
Rub freshly-bathed kitten dry until it resembles a calico tennis ball. Put it in the backyard pen, where it stumbles around weaving and screaming like it just got off a Tilt-a-Whirl.
Repeat three more times.
Finally take fourth calico tennis ball to the pen.
Note how all three other kittens are now sleeping in a pile, covered in each other’s fecal matter.
Put only clean kitten in the cage, clean other three again, take them to cage, where you discover the one you placed in there has eaten and has covered herself in an exoskeleton of hardened wet food and someone’s fecal matter.
This story isn’t terribly different from a friend of mine’s description of getting her two year-old twins ready for their Christmas picture. I wish I could say “…minus, of course, all the feces!”, but I can’t.
Week five is upon us, and they are now about three years-old. They are napping considerably less than I would like, but they are bolting around the yard with the daring grace of Cirque du Soleil performers. Like three year-olds, they can’t be bothered to groom themselves and they scream in outrage when I come after them with a wet washcloth. Food intake is still more of a “…here a glop, there a glop, everywhere a glop, glop…” experience than actual eating, but they do get terribly excited when they see me coming with the food. Actually, they get terribly excited when they see me at all. I’m the food source. I’m the cuddling and grooming source. I’m…mom.
Where the human pre-schooler comes snuffling into your lap, smelling of graham crackers, sweat and tempura paint and whispers “You’re the best mommy in the whole world”, the kittens take great delight in crawling onto my leg and purring loudly while I pet them. I take some measure of pride when people coo over their sturdy little legs and occasionally clean faces. But, frankly, much of what I enjoy about kittenhood is the brevity. Within two weeks, they will be packing their duffel bags and arguing with their littermates over who is taking the My Chemical Romance CD and my job will be done. Sure, there won’t ever be a Mother’s Day card, but neither will there be half-grown cats with infected piercings coming home at Thanksgiving with bags of laundry.
Most satisfying of all, I’m finally back in my pre-kitten jeans.