I haven’t yet made a decision about whether or not I’ll have children one day, but if I do, I should probably move thousands of miles away from everyone else in my family first. Like maybe to Alaska. Because I’m the oldest, and my mother is Childbearer of the Millennium, and I have no cousins nearby having children, I’m going to face an onslaught of baby-raising advice the likes of which you’ve never imagined unless you have a family like mine.
Just consider the number of women in my extended family for a moment. In the Commonwealth of Virginia alone, I have a mother, a grandmother, three sisters, three aunts, and two female cousins. In the rest of the universe, I have two more grandmothers, a bossy aunt, two less-bossy aunts, and three more female cousins. So that’s a total of 18 women who might have something to say about how I’m raising my hypothetical baby – and this doesn’t even begin to account for the male relatives, male and female friends who might get involved, and some members of my more extended family.
We can reduce the Crazy Eighteen somewhat if we take out the relatives who’ve never had children (5) and the relatives I’m not in close contact with (9, with some overlap), but then you have to add back in the women who’ll surely have something to say about raising children even though they’ve never had any (4, including my sisters) and those who might come out of the woodwork if I begin procreating (1, probably) and that leaves us with a grand total of 11 hyperinvolved female family members.
It’s almost a testimonial to the benefits of female sterilization.
I already have some idea of what trying to raise a baby is going to be like in my family because of our recent experiences with the kittens.
The kittens were born at Family HQ in September to a half-feral outdoor cat that we trapped and brought inside so that we could make sure the kittens were safe and maybe tame the mama cat a bit and get her spayed and find her a home one day. There were four kittens, and I had already been planning to get a pair of kittens sometime this fall, so when we learned the mama cat was pregnant, I decided I’d take two of her kittens.
We’re all animal lovers in my family, and since I’ve called dibs on two of the kittens (Abby and Marco; pictures to come soon), I’ve been particularly invested in their upbringing. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been going home almost every weekend since they were born – so I could keep an eye on them and help them socialize and get used to people in general and me in particular.
But then there’s the question of their health. The mama cat had a cold when we brought her inside, and we were very worried that the kittens wouldn’t survive or would have weak immune systems because of it. We had an extra course of antibiotics from Sasha’s UTI in the spring, and my thorough Internet research revealed that it was okay to use it to treat a cold, and that if you waited until the kittens were two weeks old, it was okay to give the normal dose to the mother cat. So I told my parents to wait for two weeks before giving them any medicines (because that’s apparently the time it takes for their immune systems to get going) and then I came home a few days later and my mother was putting prescription eye ointment in their eyes.
And I freaked out. I was sure that they were all going to go blind and die because they were getting the eye ointment too early. My mother and grandmother both happened to be there at the time, and immediately launched into tales of their cavalier approach to medication and how we all turned out just fine, and I should never have kids if I’m such a spaz, et cetera ad nauseam.
Which is why it was kind of funny when I told my mom she needed to worm the kittens at six weeks and SHE freaked out because the bottle says 12 weeks and they can’t have it sooner or they’ll diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie.
And the internet is a fine source of information if they don’t know the answer to something, but if what I find on the internet contradicts what they already think is right then the internet is full of crazy child killers and snake oil salesmen and I shouldn’t believe everything I read.
Maybe we shouldn’t handle them because the mother will forget they’re hers and EAT THEM. Maybe we should handle them so they get socialized earlier and used to people. Maybe we should wet the kitten food. Maybe we shouldn’t. Why are they eating the cat litter? Maybe they’re too young to be litter trained. The internet says five weeks is litter-training time and eating the litter won’t hurt them. Okay, let’s listen to the internet on this one. Maybe we should go ahead and find homes for the other two. They’re barely six weeks old! The internet says it’s best to give them 8-12 weeks with the mother! No, it’s 4-6 weeks. THE INTERNET IS FULL OF SHIT. God, Mom, SHUT UP or I will CUT YOU.
And so on.
It’s not nearly as vicious as the above paragraph may make it seem, but the fact remains: take this and multiply it by three million, and that’s not even HALF of what’s going to happen if I or any of my sisters happens to have an actual BABY.
I need to go get my birth control pills refilled immediately.