Monday, July 16, 2012

Having a Child with Fragile X Syndrome is like....

I had this idea, recently.  Having a child with Fragile X Syndrome is a bit like getting a cat, when you were expecting to get a dog.

Imagine that after long thought and planning, you've decided to get a dog. You read books on caring for dogs. You even take a dog owner's class. You get some supplies - a leash, dog food and water bowls. Some squeaky chew toys.

All your friends have dogs, and they are always talking about how much fun they are.  Yep.  You are definitely ready for a dog.

And then you end up bringing home a cat.

Right away you notice that the supplies you got won't do at all. You can't take a cat for a walk. You might try, but the cat just isn't cooperative. Doesn't like the leash. The cat won't chew on the chew toys, or play fetch with the ball the way you expected it to.

A cat doesn't have puppy dog eyes to shine warmly at you. Sometimes the cat seems to look right through you.

It's like an alien to you. It bewilders you. You don't know what to do with it. Nobody else got a cat. Why did you get a cat?

You do begin to realize, though, that the cat is warm and fuzzy and cuddly, and will sit right up next to you and purr happily. It obviously loves you. It's very, very discriminate - it won't generally accept others, without getting to know them really, really well.

You find very quickly that you can't take your cat to the dog park. It doesn't fit in at all, there. It's actually not as social as everyone else's dogs seem to be. You find that you can teach it to be social though. Start when it's a kitten.

Sometimes your cat acts a little bit like a dog. The cat will play with a ball, just not in the predictable way a dog will. Your cat might like to go for walks, just not on a leash that the other dogs all use.

What's that? You're not a cat person? Too bad. You have one now, so you better start trying to figure out how to relate to it. Cats can be sweet and loving and wonderful, but they aren't dogs, and they never will be.

Cats and dogs are both animals, though, and they both make good pets.

After awhile, you notice that your life is suddenly very, very different now that you have the cat. And nobody else seems to realize that. All your friends with dogs - they don't have a clue how different it is. Some of them try, but if they didn't get a cat when they were expecting a dog, there's no way they could know.

You relate better to other people who have cats. They just get you. After all, life with a cat is very different from life with a dog.  You migrate toward other people who have cats.  They are a large, compassionate community of people who really get cats and help you see all the good things about having a cat.  Some days you even like having a cat instead of a dog.  Cats are curious and mysterious in ways dogs can never be.  And this group of cat parents you've met?  They are awesome.

Yes, it's different from the life you were anticipating.  But you wanted a pet, and now you've got one, and it loves and depends on you.  And you love it, too.

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