Lessons From My Husband (and My Cat)

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Before we had kids, my husband and I had a cat.  He was a beautiful Lilac Point Siamese stray who blossomed once he was cared for.  His  sweet disposition led him on a perpetual search of a snuggle, and at night I often dreamt that I was suffocating, only to wake with his rump pressed so close against my face that I could hardly breathe.

A couple of years into our lives together, our cat got sick and was diagnosed with incurable colon cancer.  We were told at best he’d have six months.  I ignored this and with chemo (which doesn’t diminish animal quality of life like it does with humans) and other carefully selected treatments, our cat stayed and loved us for over two years more.   Miracle.  Cat.

During this time, I made the decisions pertaining to our cat’s care and I sometimes worried about these.  I remember one day spelling out options and concerns and pros and cons to my husband: were we doing what was best, could we do better, was I doing right by the cat?  My husband listened to it all, then said about the cat:  “He’s living a charmed life.”

And somehow that one sentence popped the bubble I was trying to peer through.  I carried on, making the choices I thought best, but kept my husband’s sentence close.  Our cat’s life was far from perfect or painless, and if I was careless I could get mired in the troubles of this little life.  But my husband helped me to see the big picture, which was that I loved our cat and was doing my best for him, and that was probably, overall, the better for it.

Why am I writing about my cat?  I think because I’d rather not write about my kids right now.  But in case it’s not obvious to the non-animal lovers reading out there, the questions that arise in raising children well – are we doing what’s best and could we do better? – are pretty much the same as those that arose when caring for my cat.  And having a husband around with some perspective about the whole endeavour is similarly useful.

I work harder at keeping the home and children plates spinning than my husband does, and I won’t minimize my efforts because, frankly, they are very useful around here.  But I like having my husband nearby when inevitably a plate or seven comes crashing down, for he’s not that perturbed when they do.  He’ll try to address it and make this better, but generally he does this without a lot of reeling.  He not only expects some brokenness and mess, but also that our family can weather the clean-up.  That we’ve got some resilience, as individuals, as a family.  And as it turns out, we do.

Also, our cat isn’t the only one with a charmed life.  And the more I know that, shattered dishes and all, the more true it is.

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