Here’s a secret about being a parent: sometimes we say the most when we say nothing at all.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve recognized that what I value most wasn’t inspired by words but rather by unstated expectations.
For example, I don’t remember my parents ever telling me I should go to college. I just knew that’s what I should do after I graduated from high school. I also just knew that I shouldn’t get married until I was capable of supporting myself. I never believed I should define myself by a relationship or that money mattered more than kindness.
And I never, ever believed I should have more than two children.
My husband, Giles, thought otherwise.
Perhaps our difference stemmed from the fact that I grew up in a family of two children and he grew up in a family of three.
Whatever the reason, he thought we should have three children. Since I’m the one who got pregnant and gave birth, my opinion ruled.
Maybe that’s why he decided that, since I had put my foot down about the number of human children, he should have the final word about the number of furry children in our home.
He knows how much I love animals and about my desire to adopt any stray that shows up at our door…or in the neighborhood… or in the park… or on the side of the road.
And so, he made a rule that, unless we moved to a farm, we could never have more than two pets at one time.
Having grown up in a family that never had more than one furry child at a time, I thought his decree was more than fair (even though I did attempt to circumvent it a time or two).
Ironically, Giles is the one who broke his own rule.
Initially, he was irritated when I called him before six in the morning. I was attempting to walk our German Shepherd Rodney when a black and white kitten approached. Unlike most cats, especially our fat, grey tortoiseshell cat Skitty, the little kitten actually seemed to like Rodney. And that was the problem.
It wouldn’t leave us alone, so I called Giles.
“Just walk away from it,” he said.
“I can’t,” I replied. It won’t let us. No matter where we go, it follows us.”
“Where are you now?” he asked.
“In our driveway,” I said.
When he said “O.K.,” I assumed that meant he was coming out to help.
I was wrong.
I called him again.
“Where are you now?” he asked.
“Still in the driveway,” I answered. I heard him sigh, but eventually the garage door opened.
If our lives were movies, romantic music would have swelled in the background when he first saw the kitten. It was love at first sight. He scooped her up in his arms and told me to walk Rodney.
By the time we got back from our walk, Giles was asking me to call the vet to make an appointment.
Several months have passed since Artemis joined our family. She’s still cute, she still loves Rodney and Rodney still loves her. He’s especially delighted that tiny Artemis not only acknowledges his presence (unlike her feline older sister Skitty), she is also willing to roughhouse with him (completely unlike Skitty).
Before we adopted Artemis, Rodney and Skitty had come to understanding.
Skitty couldn’t stand Rodney, and Rodney knew it. Because of that, he didn’t bother her.
But now that one cat will play with him, our German Shepherd thinks the other one should too. He has become that annoying younger brother who constantly teases and provokes his older sister.
Giles and I are now breaking up fights between the fat grey cat and the large, overly enthusiastic dog several times a day. He pokes at her, she hisses back and chaos ensues.
At these times, I am reminded of my insistence to only have two human children. Maybe I was reacting to more than just an unstated expectation from my parents. Maybe, just maybe, I realized that life would be much more difficult if Giles and I were out-numbered.
In my family, sometimes three really can be a crowd.
Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.