12 November 2007

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes...a houseplant, then a dog?

Yes, I must admit, mindless Sulvans that we were, we actually followed this cute progression so often recommended by well-meaning people. You know: start out "parenting" a plant. If the plant lives, you can move on to a dog. If you do all right with the dog, then you can think about kids. We even joked about it when we moved into our very first tiny apartment and went out to buy our very first tiny houseplant together.

I guess that the whole "take some time to get to know each other and have fun before you have kids" is only the logical extension of the ridiculously prolonged adolescence our culture fosters.

Or is it the other way around: Does the Sulvan (contraceptive) mentality discourage us from growing up?

Really: We don't have to grow up and have mature relationships (married or not) if we don't have to be responsible for any brand-new, needy human beings that might come along. We don't need to learn about self-sacrifice if there's no choice between going out on Friday nights and buying shoes for the kids. We don't know how selfish we are until the baby's crying in the middle of the night, the poop has once again defied both gravity and the diaper, and people are constantly asking, What's for supper tonight?

I know there are those rare couples who, though intentionally childless for a time/at times, are nonetheless amazingly mature and focused not on themselves but on accomplishing good things, even God's things, in the world. But speaking for myself, children have been the wake-up call (an alarm clock that you just can't shut off, actually) out of the selfish immaturity I didn't even know I inhabited. (And I can't help thinking how extra-super-amazing those aforementioned couples would be if they were perhaps a bit more open to God's intentions for marriage and gift of kids!)

But I digress. Back to my furry firstborn: I have lived to repent of the contraception, but not of the plants or dog. Fact is, she's still my only girl! (Though anyone who's had a dog knows that dogs of either sex act more like guys...'nuff said.) Ain't she adorable, though?

And as a side note, this pup of ours is recycled (from the streets of St. Louis via the Humane Society), or, to use one of our favorite household adjectives, "crunchy" (See Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons for a fuller explanation of that). And she in turn recycles--her favorite place to hang out, of course, is under the high chair.


Rosie said...

i guess i have it all backwards. see, i kill plants and hate dogs so i'm skipping straight to a kid - hopefully. :) good post!

Rebekah said...

We also went this route, congratulating ourselves all the while for being so responsible. The difference is that as soon as we had a baby, I started HATING the cat. Don't I have enough poop in my life? And now this thing leaves more in a box IN MY HOUSE? I started looking forward to its death, but now our kids all love the wretched creature so much that I know when it finally kicks off Dad is just going to bundle the whole crew off to the kitten farm to pick out a new thorn in my side.

(Wow, can't you tell what a nurturing person I am? No wonder I keep having kids!)

The pet-as-child-proxy thing irks me to no end, particularly when the beast is believed to refer to the adults of the "let's pretend" household as Mommy and Daddy.

elephantschild said...

I know there are those rare couples who, though intentionally childless for a time/at times, are nonetheless amazingly mature and focused not on themselves but on accomplishing good things, even God's things, in the world

And there are dear ladies who struggled so terribly much with depression after their first that they feel perhaps it would be unwise to actively pursue more children. (Who nonetheless refuse to use abortificaents or permanent methods of ending fertility.)


I always want to smack people who say "We got a puppy to get us ready for kids!" I've never heard of Post-puppy Depression so severe it causes memory blackouts. You can't kennel-train a two year old, although it sure would be handy, eh?

Reb. Mary said...

I have the greatest respect for women facing hard cases who choose a God-honoring (non-abortificient, non-permanent--i.e. NFP) way to delay/avoid having more children. It would be so easy (and so tragic) for such women to listen to the many voices that are telling them just to pop a pill or have a "simple surgery."

And I know that hard cases are best determined by a couple's decision, informed by prayer, study, and mature Biblical counsel. That is to say--not my place to judge!

Yeah, it'd be great to kennel-train 2 yr olds. We've discussed getting some kind of harness to hook our toddler up to the dog run (JK...well, kind of...)

Reb. Mary said...

Kudos on having things in the right order!
But sorry to hear about the dog aversion. :P

The Gauntlets said...

You mean, you SHOULDN'T kennel train two-year-olds? Oh. Oops. ;)

elephantschild: I respect you. For many reasons.

Rosie, Rosie, Rosie: I respect you too, but I also must quote for you from everyone's favorite music artist: George Thorogood. *ahem* "Get a haircut and get a real dog! Clean your act up and don't be a . . . slog!"

You're welcome.

Dizziness said...

I have counseled fellow seminarians:

"I didn't grow up until I became a Father. No one really does until they become a parent."

Too true! Yet another great post.

elephantschild said...

And from what I hear, those surgeries are far from "simple" and have ramifications that few people talk about.

Blessings on your site: it's fantastic & hilarious.

The Gauntlets said...

Hey, Reb., you'll have to tell me what goes into dog care one of these days. I keep thinking about getting some sort of pet, and a dog would be tops on the list if it weren't for memories of *that smell* and all the backyard pickup (and it had better all be in the backyard).

The free floor cleanup seems like a real plus . . .

Soooo, does it make a LOT of extra work? And by a lot I really mean any.

Reb. Mary said...

Our dog definitely earns her keep, between the floor cleanup, disposing of anything that's been in the fridge too long, and entertaining the kids.

That said, the amount of work might depend on your setup. We spent all of $20 to put a dog run/tie-out in the front yard and we have an attached garage, so we can just stick her outside or in the garage if she gets annoying or kids who don't like dogs come over. Then we know the "piles" are all in that area of the yard, so we just don't play there, and do doggie duty every other week or so. What's a little more poop in our day, after all (especially if it's not being deposited in our house and doesn't require immediate attention!)

Our dog has no odor unless wet, but I guess some breeds tend more toward that, and you can buy "between-bath spritzes" at PetSmart if you want to (Pet-as-proxy or what?). Never tried them, ourselves.

One more thought: I can't imagine starting with a puppy. Potty training isn't my favorite part of parenting; why would I want to add to my list? Ours was about a year old when we got her, classified by the Humane Society as an "older dog" and therefore cheaper to boot :) The nice Humane Society people are really good about knowing a dog's personality and history (if any is known) and they won't let you go home with a snappy dog if you've got little kids.

Whatever you do, never, never, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. Just don't do it! Ever!

Ok, dismounting soapbox....

The Gauntlets said...

I think we may be sold.

What am I saying!?

Lutheran Lucciola said...


I hear you on the depression. A friend of mine had such a severe problem with that, I ached for her. It took her a year to get over it fully. It was horrible. I have never seen anything so difficult in my life, regarding depression. The one she went through.

Don't be hard on yourself for that. That's my opinion, anyway. But I mean it. ;-)