Cats & Kids
Cats & kids
For as long as David and I have been together, I have had two cats. I started with one long ago and then realized they're better in pairs, just like people. As they grow old and die, I always get another to be a friend for the one that remains. There are times when the first week or so is a challenge, but they always buddy up sooner or later.
David is a dog person. We have those too, usually just one at a time (except for the time when we had to take in his oldest son's dog because the 30-year-old boy can't even take care of himself). I guess dog people are used to putting a bowl of food down and watching it get devoured in seconds. We cat people are different. We put the bowl down in the same place, at the same time every day, but we never expect it to be woofed down in seconds. Cats are finicky. You've seen the t.v. commercials.
David doesn't get it. He opens the can of Fancy Feast, spoons it into two little bowls and then puts one down in front of each cat. Really, in front of each cat no matter where they are. On the couch, on our bed, on the dining room table, on the windowsill, on the kitchen counter. As you might imagine, several of those places are “NO-cat zones” when I catch them. They're smart enough to know not to get on the kitchen counter or dining room table when mom is around. But David doesn't care. He just expects them to eat when and where he feeds them. If they don't eat when he puts the bowl in front of them, he follows them around with it for quite a while. It's amusing to watch, even though I know it will encourage some bad kitty habits.
Eventually he says to me, “Something's wrong with the cats. They're not eating.”
I say, “They're cats. They'll eat when they're hungry.”
Over the years I've tripped over bowls in the strangest places. Now that I think about it, maybe it's amusing from a cat's perspective too. Maybe they're just doing it to screw with him. Nah. They're cats.
Catering to the cats is the same way he treated his adult children when they visit us in Florida. David is an enabler. He parented by financing. That has resulted in adult children who have sobriety and employment issues.
When they were visiting, he'd constantly ask them if they wanted anything to eat or drink. He'd deliver it to them wherever they were. They didn't have to move a muscle. This was also amusing to watch, considering I have never seen him be the chief cook and bottle washer at any other time in our relationship. He'd make sandwiches, salads, ice tea, coffee, anything they wanted, and put it right in front of their noses. I'm surprised he didn't follow them outside a dozen times a day and light their cigarettes. These kids were over 21 and they should have been capable of feeding themselves. They hadn't starved at home up until now. But when they were at our house, David somehow felt the need to do everything for them. And they let him. Actually, it was disgusting to watch.
I remember the first time I pointed out to David that he treated our cats like his kids and it was wrong for all of them. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll feed himself for a lifetime. If the cats were hungry, they had to learn to get off their furry little asses and get over to their dishes and eat. If the boys wanted something, they should have to get off their asses too, right? There comes a time when daddy has to stop providing for grown men.
David has always said he wants to leave his children something. Something is always money in David's world and that's what his children were brought up to believe. If you got something from dad, it was money or something that cost money. They never had to do anything for money. Ever. No chores. Not even demands for good grades at school because their mother said it was “enough just to be good people.” Their father has only been a bank to them because that's what they learned from watching their mother. Everything was about money. Money for new clothes. Money for new furniture. Money for a bigger house. Money for toys. Money for vacations. Money for Christmas presents. He made it and she spent it. She taught the kids to want it. After the divorce, she taught the kids various ways, some illegal, of how to get it, leading by example. But that's another story.
In reality, I know we all got money from our parents. The thing is, that wasn't all we got. I gained the knowledge that if I wanted money, I had to do something for it. When I was little, I remember getting a dollar or two for a good report card. But as the years went on, that stopped because I somehow learned that school was my job and I needed to do well to earn scholarships for college. There it is: the work ethic. Words like job and earn were clearly in my vocabulary at an early age. I must have learned them somewhere. Maybe it helps that I grew up in New England with immigrant grandparents and blue collar parents. David did too. I learned that hard work pays off, and not only in cash. It gave me a sense of pride, sometimes public accolades, and often the feeling of a job well done, a restful feeling. It's not all about money. There's so much more to life.
Children who are merely financed aren't taught how to work and earn. Think about it. That's a pretty big deal. Imagine if you didn't understand the concept of working for a living. What would you do? How would you live? David's kids ask daddy for money. They feel entitled to it.
They also were not taught to do anything for the sake of pride or a sense of accomplishment. This one is a little difficult for me to understand, considering they were surrounded by others who had achievements. Classmates, cousins, their father. Everyone around them was doing something. Why weren't they? They weren't living in a negative environment. They were encouraged and supported like any other kids. They just seemed to have an attitude of superiority, like they knew they didn't have to do anything specific, yet they could do what they wanted. Where did this come from? In my world, parents are supposed to put some kind of demands on their kids. How do you learn to be responsible if you aren't given responsibility for something? How can you learn self-discipline if you don't get disciplined?
Jack actually played high school football. There's an opportunity for discipline. Unfortunately, he had to stop when he hurt his knee. And then the whole high school thing went down the tubes when he didn't graduate because of that so-called incompetent guidance counselor. Nothing to be proud of there. The only job he's ever had is delivering pizzas. There's not a lot of applause, awards or promotions in that world. I mean, could you even describe the last pizza delivery guy who came to your door? It's a cash-only transaction.
Cindy was in the drama club in high school. I saw her in one play and she basically played herself. The character was moody and had tantrums. She did a very good job and everybody told her so. She went on to one semester of drama school after high school, but that was it. She didn't have the discipline.
Bryan played a couple of musical instruments and tried baseball along the way in school. He just didn't stick with anything long enough to get good at it. He didn't seem to like the whole idea of practicing to get better. Watching his mother, brother and sister drinking and smoking and hanging around was just too tempting a lifestyle for him. He got sucked in. And why not? There were no expectations or demands and he still got money from dad. Daddy Welfare instead of an allowance.
Think about some of the kids you grew up with who didn't excel at anything. Chances are, some of them are engineers now. How about the class clown? He might be headlining in Vegas. The fat kid who never got selected for kickball is very likely a slim personal trainer right now, or at least slim. We turn things around. Some of our weaknesses turn out to be our greatest strengths when we are left to our own resources. I've been told I was a very shy child, yet I grew up to work on television.
We all grow up to have some element of success in our lives regardless of our childhood. Whether it's a career, a family, a skill, a talent or a larger mission, we grow up to do something. Not everyone is dependent on their daddy or welfare, or Daddy Welfare, into their 30s and 40s.
Remember potty training? Somewhere along the line you learned to wipe your own ass and take pride in the accomplishment. You discovered how to whip up some mac and cheese if you wanted to eat. And you loved it the first time someone called you a “big girl.”
Most of us don't have someone putting a bowl of food down in front of us. That's a good thing. It pushes you up the learning curve. It's what separates the men from the cats!