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Puppies and babies

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WHEN I became pregnant the first time I didn't have a clue about babies. I once found myself alone with a mother and her baby/small child of indeterminate age. Trying to make conversation I asked, ‘Does it eat human food yet?’ to which I received the curt reply, ‘He is a boy, he is also human!’

This was not a good start, so my partner and I decided to bring the children up like we did the dog – more familiar ground. We also decided to join the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) classes – to meet other new parents locally as we didn't have any baby-toting friends at the time. Things got off to a shaky start as I rushed in late to the first session smelling of dead dog wee (why does dead dog urine smell so much worse than the fresh stuff?). So lesson number one from the NCT class turned out to be: book off last appointment in order to have a quick shower and change upstairs in the practice.

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However, it soon became clear that vets and their children are not the same as other people and I had to check myself to fit in. The first time I noticed this difference was when my friends looked at me strangely when I referred to my child's ‘back legs’ – apparently, despite my daughter's quadrupedal locomotion at the time, back ones are all they have so it is not necessary to draw reference to their anatomical location. At get-togethers, my children were also the only ones who crawled around with toys in their mouths – presumably copying the dog. They also mentioned at nursery that both of the girls' first communications were a sort of growl, but I can't really blame the dog for that as he doesn't go in for growling much. I also think my toddler is the only one of her friends who role-plays picking up imaginary dog mess with a nappy bag saying, ‘Dirty poo yuck!’

My kids love role-playing doggies, as well as kittens, hedgehogs, baby deer, ponies and dinosaurs. But this morning it was doggies. The youngest (a two-year-old) was refusing to get dressed so the older one (five) pretended to be her dog trainer and made her beg, roll over, let me change her clothes and play ball, all for an imaginary dog treat and a pat on the head – genius!

My ‘bringing the kids up like the dog’ theory seems to hold some water though. I have a friend who is a social worker in child protection. We have similar theories about the wayward behaviour of our clients/patients. Parents and pet owners likewise fail to socialise their charges, fail to set boundaries and fail to adequately stimulate and motivate them mentally and physically. To say nothing of the lack of exercise and poor diet. Anyway, my kids seem to be doing fine under the regime and the dog has stopped chasing cats so we just need to wait for the toddler to stop chasing cats and I reckon we're sorted.

By the way, apparently it is not ‘normal’ to whistle to gain your children's attention. ‘They're not dogs you know,’ I was recently told.

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