It wasn’t until that point that I realized that I had, in fact, stopped calling my son by one of my favorite pet names for him. Was he no longer a tyrant? Did Baby Bob Ghengis Khan no longer sit on his high chair throne of oppression? Had the tide turned in favor of us humble servants, or was this just the result of his tyrannical mind games at work? Had he lulled me into submission and subjugation so swiftly, slyly, and creatively that I no longer felt like a slave to his grind despite the fact that I was under his control more than ever? Had he broken me, or had the littlest tyrant actually become a more benevolent benefactor over the last few months? The most clever rulers trick you into thinking that freedom is servitude. I’m either really free from under his thumb or my son is one of the clever ones. Take your pick, I suppose. The oppressed are always the clueless ones.
People tend to glorify the “baby time.” They often spend more time pining for the days of baby-dom than enjoying what that baby has turned into. I know many women who are in a constant state of ga-ga over those that go ga-ga-ga. I know couples that can’t not have a baby in the house. I know women who seem to be in constant pregnancy. Certain folks are just plain baby crazy. I don’t get it.
“I just love babies, they’re so cute. I can’t get enough,” a friend of a friend said at a recent Sunday gathering. I’ll give her that, babies are cute. But, so are koala bears and koala bears are total bastards. I offered her the chance to take Jack home with her for a week.
“You better watch it or I might just take you up on that,” she responded.
“Try me,” I countered. Oh the naivete of the childless!
Until about the sixth month or so, babies are pretty much worthless. I love my son more than I ever could have imagined, but for his first few months he offered me nothing and took everything, sleep and sanity included. For every second of cuteness, there are five of frustration. For every second of cherubic sleep, there are five dirty diapers. They eat, they sleep, they cry, and they shit. Other than that, babies just kind of lay there and expect you to do their bidding. Good luck trying to figure out what that bidding is.
Being a parent to a newborn baby is like toiling beneath the iron fist of a sadistic foreign dictator. You know they expect something from you, but you can’t understand a word they are saying and they won’t stop defecating on you. If that is your idea of cute and cuddly, more power to you. Live in your fantasy world. Worship the baby, or your idea of what a baby is. I, however, am looking forward to the child I can hold a conversation with. I am excited for my toddler, my teenager, and my twenty-something. While you stay fixated on their delusional baby fantasy, I will be enjoying what my baby will become. Instead of wishing for what was, I am enthusiastic for a relationship with the person he will be. I’m ready to be a parent, not a perpetual peon or prisoner. Babies are totally overrated.
Lucky for me, Jack is becoming a little less like a baby every day: he may not actually be the infamous infantile tyrant of his formative months anymore. So, as he’s evolved out of that phase, I’ve phased out my use of the word “tyrant” to describe him. My brothers and sisters in captivity, let us celebrate for we are finally free! Yes, at nine months, my son is a tyrannical ruler no more. These days, oddly, he’s more like a dog. The real dog in my life is not so thrilled.
Ever since we brought Jack home from the hospital, my dog has been uneasy. She didn’t quite know what to make of the crying, pooping, helpless creature that we were paying way too much attention to. Wherever the baby was, my dog would be elsewhere. There was jealousy. There was confusion. But the majority of the time there was complete indifference, at least for the first few months of their cohabitation. Then one day Jack noticed the dog. From that moment on, he has been obsessed with her. Well, as obsessed as a nine month old could be with anything for more than five seconds.
After the noticing, came the crawling, the stalking, the grabbing, and the full fledged rivalry. At nine months, my son has become the new alpha dog in the house, and my real dog is pretty pissed. At least that’s what the look on her face tells me every time she goes looking for her food and it’s on the top of the fridge. Never in a million years did she think she’d be competing for her own Kibbles and Bits. Who would have thought that my kid would want to eat dog food more than life itself? He makes a b-line to the dog dishes as soon as he hits the kitchen tile. If you’re too late, he’s probably already shoved three or four pellets into his mouth and is splashing around in the water bowl. He can’t be trusted, and my poor dog suffers the consequences. When she jumps up on the bed and licks my face I can almost hear her ask, “Who taught that fucking kid to crawl? It was you wasn’t it?” Then she’ll usually tell me to sell the kid to gypsies, shave my beard, and get a real job.
Having to move the dog food was probably the final straw in the already extremely fragile relationship between the two of them. Since Jack attained mobility it’s been quite the daily cat and mouse game between the boy and the dog. My favorite thing to do is to watch my unsuspecting dog lick herself while Jack cruises across the room like a baby ninja and then suddenly pounces on her with his meaty paws. His idea of petting is more akin to assault. He’ll launch himself at her with all of his twenty five pounds of lean mean fighting machine, tugging at her skin as hard as he can, trying to pull her ears off in big handfuls, and attempting to poke her eyes out as she sprints away from imminent danger like a scurrying mouse
Sure, he means no harm. But my dog is the last dog on earth that’s going to put up with that nonsense. Hell, she growls at me when I try to pet her when she’s not in the mood. And good luck trying to get her to give up a few inches in your own bed. It’s kind of an understatement, but my dog likes things a certain way and that way does not include Jack. It’s hilarious.
And so, my dog and my son have become arch nemeses. And yet they are one in the same. Like twins, they are constant rivals fighting a battle over common territory and attention. The twist: only one combatant thinks it is a contest. It’s a dog eat boy eat dog world and I’m just living in it.
I imagine their heated rivalry stems from the fact that they are so similar. In fact, lately, my kid and my dog are almost indistinguishable. They both crawl on the floor. They both try to climb up on things that they shouldn’t. They both speak a language that I don’t understand. They both like to play fetch with the same ball, get excited over the discovery of rawhide bones under the couch, and eat their own puke. They play with the same toys. They growl. They whine when they want something. They like when you tickle their bellies. They can both high-five me. They are one in the same. Though, if my real dog could read, she’d probably take that as an insult.
Judging by what I have witnessed over the past couple of weeks, eight and nine month old babies are the equivalent of bad dogs in need of a healthy dose of Cesar Millan. Whispering is futile. My real dog is much more advanced. My real dog listens. My real dog obeys commands. My real dog drools less. She also naps all day without issue, sleeps in, and shits outside on her own. My real dog doesn’t cry. My real dog always lands on her feet. My real dog understands more English than my nine month old and you can leave her home alone. I didn’t have to buy one of those gates for my dog, but there is now one in my house and she hates it. So do I. If you asked her, it would be no contest. If you asked me, I might have to agree. At this point in the battle of Boy vs. Dog, you’ve got to give it to the dog. But hey, she is practically fifty and I’m just trying to be the peacemaker.
I’m greatly interested in how their relationship will develop in the next few months and years. I hope that the old girl still has a few more left in her so I’ll be able to witness the evolution of Boy Vs. Dog. Every now and then, you can already see things changing. My dog won’t run away as quickly. My son has curtailed his violent blows in favor of attempts at actual petting. My dog shares her stuffed turtle with my son while my son shares his unwanted food with my dog. Sometimes, they’ll even pose for pictures together. Baby steps, I suppose. Maybe someday my dog will learn to tolerate him like she does me. Maybe she’ll go on to like him even more than he seems to like her. Maybe, and hopefully, they’ll be able to one day keep each other occupied and at the very least, learn to live with each other.
I saw a glimpse of that future the other day. I was hanging out on the floor as I usually do with the boy and the dog. I threw the yellow ball across the room, my dog went after it, and my son went after my dog. Then, instead of bringing the ball back to me, she dropped it in front of him. I was touched. It was a genuinely cute moment. A small but significant truce in the battle of Boy Vs. Dog; a turning point.
She sat there in front of him, surveying the situation, waiting for him to respond. Then he did. He picked up the ball with both hands and proceeded to try to stick it in his mouth. The dog in turn gave up and moved on to licking her own ass while my son continued to crawl around chasing the yellow softball around the carpet. Boy vs. Dog? Hell, these days it’s more like Boy is Dog. Luckily I’m a dog person.