Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.
posted in Mom Stories
It’s an interesting question. Do childless people with pets qualify as parents?
For many pet owners, the answer is obvious. Consider this article in the Guardian about the rise of childless pet owners in Japan.
According to authors Ruth Evans and Roland Buerk, “Japan has become a pet superpower.” There are about 22 million pets in Japan, but only about 16 million children under the age of 15. And for many childless pet owners, their dogs or cats are their kids.
The article quotes a successful eye surgeon, Toshiko Horikoshi, who lavishes love on her pet chihuahua and poodle. “Japanese dog owners think a dog is like a child,” says Horikoshi. “I have no children, so I really love my two dogs.”
Another pet owner, cameraman Jiro Akiba, puts it more starkly. “…[M]y girlfriend decided against having a baby, and that’s why we have a dog instead.” They named the dog Kotaro, which means “first-born son.”
The article goes on to discuss the rather bizarre “luxuries” accorded to some dogs in Japan, like designer doggy clothing, spa membership, bubble baths, and buggy rides. I put the word “luxuries” in quotes because while these items and experiences rate as extravagances, I’m not sure how much they please the dogs.
And that’s one of the key differences between interspecies “parenting” and the real thing. Many people who see their pets as children are guilty of violating the prime directive of real parenting:
Treat your children as an independent creatures with minds of their own.
Don’t assume that what you want for your children is what they want for themselves. Don’t assume that they see the world the same way you do, or think the same thoughts. Your children are not destined to become replicas of you, let alone new, improved versions of you or fantasy characters from a Hollywood movie. Your kids have got their own genes, their own neurons, their own environmental experiences that will set them on peculiar, unique paths.
So when I see the celebrities with little toy dogs tucked under their arms, or see the baffled dog owners who consult with “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan on TV, I have to stop myself from thinking “these people are treating their dogs like human children.” The truth is…I don’t want to see human children treated that way. “Pampered” pets aren’t being respected for their distinctly different, non-human needs. They’re being used for entertainment, and that’s not real parenting. That’s pretend play.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of good pet owners–people tuned into what their animals actually need. I heartily endorse kind, respectful, affectionate behavior towards all sorts of creatures, and I don’t doubt that caring for non-human animals taps into many of the same skills we use to care for humans.
But putting sunglasses on a chihuahua doesn’t make you a mother. And I’m not comforted to think of a future world where real parents are outnumbered by the make-believe sort. Society benefits from having real parents in it. Let’s hope real parenting doesn’t get lost amongst the designer doggy clothes.
celebrity photo by CR/INFphoto.com
Read more from source:“babycenter-com-baby”
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