It’s easier to raise a kitten then a kid. Or is it? • Brooklyn Paper

It’s easier to raise a kitten then a kid. Or is it?

It hit me hard, like a boulder to the head, as I jiggled the locked door over and over again: this isn’t about what you want. Kids need privacy.

Why didn’t I think my teenage boys had a right to do as they pleased behind a locked door? Why did I think I had to control everything they did? Who did I think I was?

I’m their mother, yes. But am I a prison-warden mother, setting up harsh rules and restrictions to keep my inmates in line, or am I a mother cat, nurturing and playful and pushing my little ones to get out there on their own?

Sometimes, I’m not sure. We all need boundaries, and how do kids know what their boundaries are if you don’t set them? On the other hand, if I don’t let them trust their own instincts early on, when will they learn to do that?

Unfortunately, there is no rule book. There is only the moment-to-moment, take-it-as-it-comes life where we can try to pay attention to the actions and reactions of those people around us in our home, and to ourselves, and attempt to figure the way together.

We just got a new kitten. It is a learning experience, having a tiny living being in our midst who looks to us for love in lieu of the nursing mother she just left. It is up to us to help this little furry thing feel less feel safe and happy and cared for. He is on my chest purring as I write. I pick him up whenever he rubs up against my legs and I hold him to my heart. I hold him high in the air and let his paws dangle, then I bring him back in tight.

You are safe, I want to show him. Everything’s gonna be just fine.

A kitten is an easy metaphor for how we need to take care of another being. It seems less complicated. They need food and water and a few strings and feathers to bat around. And they need love. They need affection. I am so conscious of being a surrogate for the mewing nursing cat mom our little black Shadow just left. “What would she do?” I keep wondering. I watched her with him when we adopted him. She took him under her body and let him nurse, then washed him vigorously, somewhat harshly, and sent him off to play with his siblings. She was firm, not wishy-washy. She needed to do what she needed to do. And then her job was done. He was on his own four little legs, given away to others to live his life.

He purrs like a vibrating motor on my chest, and his little narrow eyes close. It is like he is in a trance, feeling my warm body underneath his, my calm joy in being with him transmuted directly. He slips back into slumber, his little paw resting against his nose.

The kitten will grow up, and he will likely hide sometimes, as he is already wont to do, behind pillows or curled up inside baskets. He will maybe even try to run out the door when we open it, to see the world beyond these apartment walls. I’ve been told not to de-claw him, despite the fact my rugs and pillows might then be spared, to make sure he can protect himself if he has to.

And when it grows up, I can only hope it remembers these moments on my chest, all the love I have tried to impart. And I cannot chase and smother him if he should want to run and hide from me. That seems clear.

With humans it seems so much more complicated, but maybe it isn’t.

Maybe the simple lesson of animal behavior should stand true: food, water, love, time to run and play. And, maybe, some music, some beautiful strains of Bach or Chopin to lift his spirits and bring him to a higher place. Easy. Sweet. Beautiful. Calm.

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.

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