Is it just me, or do some of you also cringe when you see ads for pet food where the cat or dog looks soulfully into the camera and says something along the lines of, “Mom, this food will keep me healthy and strong. Will you buy it for me?”
Mom? When did pet owners turn into parents? Was it some time after parents turned into friends and asked their children to call them by their first names? What kind of weird world is this where you imagine your cat calling you Mom while your child calls you Stacy?
Like most mothers, I was absolutely thrilled when each of my children started saying Mommy. (A word to the wise here- I know some mothers who work very hard on making sure their child first learns to say Daddy. Isn’t that what you really would prefer to hear at 3 a.m.?) And at around age three each of them experimented with calling my husband and me by our first names, which we laughed about privately while we made sure they knew that was unacceptable.
Then, over the phone one day, a young man who had recently become engaged to our daughter, called me Mom. I’ll admit to feeling some very weird sensations at hearing that word come from the mouth of someone whom I barely knew. I mean, I knew my own children for quite a while before they called me that! But, of course, he was doing the absolutely right thing. My own future mother-in-law, many years earlier, had me use the word Mom in every sentence I spoke to her until it sounded natural to both of us. In succession, three more sons-in-law call me Mom, and in each case I am delighted to answer to that name.
But I draw the line at four legged creatures. Those ads don’t strike me as cute nor do they pull at my heartstrings. They instead make me both recoil and feel troubled at a world which is actually getting more and more confused each day. Warm and loving relationships can and should exist between people and animals. But years ago, radio host Dennis Prager mentioned being astounded at how when talking to students, many said that if their pet was drowning as well as a stranger, they would save the pet. They were quite sure they were making the moral and correct choice.
Suggesting that owning a pet is the same as being a parent doesn’t make the animal any happier; but it does devalue the mother/father/child relationship while diminishing the value of all human life.