Small wonders: The greatness and smallness of life

I’ve had children now for about a decade. Those 10 years have passed as fleetingly as a Christmas morning, and they’ve been as painfully long as a Sarah Jessica Parker movie marathon.

Though certainly not as long as others, my 10-year sentence has provided me with a passing knowledge of the parental arts, like the D+ grades that symbolize my senior year of high school. Certainly not the marks I would get if I applied myself, but enough to graduate.

When one is blessed with the weird and wonderful results of reproduction, one’s offspring become the favored topic of conversation — not only within one’s marriage, but with friends, co-workers, grocery store clerks and Tony, the guy that’s always in the same seat at the end of the bar.

And there is something that often comes up in these conversations which, to put frankly, has always bugged the hell out of me. At some point when one is lamenting or bragging about one’s children, the other person will say:

“Yeah, I know just how you feel. I mean, I don’t have kids myself, but I have a dog, and we went through the same kind of thing with her.”

Now, I am not trying to draw battle lines between breeders and non-breeders, between actual parents and, well, pet owners, but there is a difference. The last time I checked, you still couldn't euthanize a human when they become surly, slow-moving teenagers.

I’ve always bristled at the assertion that raising a child — a sentient human being bestowed with all the spiritual, emotional and top-of-the-food-chain attributes therein — is even remotely similar to raising a dog. I found it more than mildly insulting, if not ridiculous.

And then, last spring, we got two dogs to go with our two daughters.

I'm not about to agree with members of the more pet-obsessed contingent of our society that treat animals as if they were so morally and spiritually superior to humans, who care more for Boopie, the genetically-engineered lap dog, than they do the smelly homeless guy outside the supermarket.

But, humbly, I have come to learn that there are some interesting similarities between kids and pups. Such as:

When babes, you just can’t take your eyes off them; all you want to do is cuddle and kiss them. Especially their little noses and feet. However, the feet part fades over time as they learn to walk through fields of their own feces.

When water is involved, drinking or bathing, it goes everywhere but where it is intended.

They often get so worked up with excitement and love and joy and happiness that they can’t contain their unbridled energy. So they bite you.

They fight all the time. Seriously. All the time. And rarely do you know why.

They constantly beg for food. And their own food is never good enough. They always want what is on your plate or in your glass.

When they are with each other, they want to kill each other. But when they are apart, they only seem to care about where the other one is and when that other one is coming back.

They always want what the other one has — socks, laptop, treat, rock. So one takes it away from the other. Which offers the rare occasion when you know exactly why they are fighting.

They are always underfoot, standing exactly where you need to stand or walk; they beg attention, moving before you in unison with your desired direction like a bothersome cloud of gnats.

Within the briefest of moments, they can be so cuddly cute and loving that you can’t imagine your existence without them, and so frustratingly annoying you just want to stuff them in a bag and throw them off a bridge.

The floor is a perfectly acceptable and preferred place for their toys and abundant stock of personal accessories.

The destruction of clothes is more important than the washing or keeping of them.

They interrupt your conversations at the worst possible time and for the most mundane reasons.

They are in their most perfect and beautiful state when they are asleep.

For best results, walk daily.

The prospect of bringing them home and into your comfortable life can be frightening and paralyzing. But once you have them there, nestled next to you on the couch and within your heart, you understand the greatness and smallness of life in a way you never thought possible.

Until they pass wind.

PATRICK CANEDAY can’t juggle. Contact him at Friend him on Facebook. Read more random thoughts at

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