We got kittens last week – they’re littermates, though he’s a creamsicle tabby and she’s solid black. We named them Bingley and Knightley, and I don’t know how to be productive around such distracting cuteness. Logistical details interfere, though, too…just little things, like in the morning when I’m bent over the sink with my eyes closed to wash my face, suddenly 20 tiny needles impale my left leg.
Then they start climbing.
I grab the towel and wipe my face with one hand while blindly grasping for the ascending kitten with the other hand. Four paws, five claws each, and it takes a while to get them all free…and before I’m done, Kapow! Twenty more needles on the other leg.
You can hear the conspiracy: I’ll get this leg, you get that leg; we’ll take her down together! Go! There’s a song for this kind of teamwork.
[insert “Everything is Awesome!” from The Lego Movie]
By the time I get one kitten detached and on the ground, the other one has jumped back on me and is scaling. We go several rounds of this before I escape, gasping for air, and shut the little sinners in the bathroom behind me. And I still haven’t brushed my teeth.
It’s highly virtuous to say we’ll be good, but we can’t do it all at once, and it takes a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether, before some of us even get our feet set in the right way.
– Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
But then they sleep and snuggle…
and it’s just bliss. For most of us, at least.
Like many older siblings, he’s not sure what to make of them, or how he can defend himself against them without getting in trouble. Like many younger siblings, they are fearless, immune to intimidation, and have no sense of personal space. Gus can growl, spit, bully, and use all sorts of feline profanity and they will still approach him with wide-eyed adoration.
Hey, wanna be friends? Do you wanna play? Do you wanna build a snowman? No? Okay, maybe later! I’m going to go poop in your litterbox now, yay!!
[Everything is awesome!!]
Among kids, among kittens – this week, we’ve had enough rivalry, tattling, criticism, arguing, assumptions, scratching, snatching, hissing and spitting to make any human start using profanity, feline or otherwise.
The big ones pick on the little ones. The little ones provoke and pester the big ones. The parents wonder where we missed the mark.
A new school year is looming and we’re more aware than ever of leveraging great books and curriculum to model great behavior, and eliminating twaddle that carries any hint of “boys will be boys” or “they’re just kids” type of brain-numbing, sin-condoning messages. I need it for myself, too.
We need joy, kindness, beauty. Gritty reality needs to be balanced with truth in love.
Mind your own business. Get the plank out of your own eye. Stop picking on those who are littler than you just because you think you can. They’ve been like kittens climbing to the top of the scratching post, pulling someone down just so they can claw their way to the top.
For us, this means Ramona and Beezus and their manipulative bickering are out, and books that show kind relationships between siblings and realistic consequences are increasing – those by Edith Nesbit, Louisa May Alcott, and, well, most classics. They were written in an era that expected children to be both respectful and responsible by society at large, instead of pooh-poohed by a culture that winks at minor infractions and then gasps at teen activity that make headlines.
What is a great man who has made his mark upon history? Every time, if we think far enough, he is a man who has looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issue involved; he is a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; he has listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a trumpet call to like-minded men, so that they gather about him and together, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, they make a new period in history.…
– Jane Addams, 1903 address in honor of George Washington
We’re looking for characters – in fiction and reality – that discern truth from half-truth, and make the right choice without compromise. And when they don’t – because we all miss the mark sometimes – they refuse to justify or distort their sense of justice.
Some it is genuinely innocent. Kids and kittens are shamelessly clumsy, still learning about physics and gravity, how to maneuver, negotiate, climb. They tumble off furniture, trip over each other, and forget to retract their claws sometimes. They wrestle for fun, just like the kittens – Bingley is bigger, but Knightley is faster – and usually no one gets hurt.
But they do need to learn about courtesy, safety, and obedience. It is our fervent hope that our little multi-colored littermates – not the tabby and coal-black kittens, but the Mexican-Irish-Bulgarian Americans – will gather together with mutual purpose, and grow to be men and women of greatness.
They hit the caps lock button on your keyboard while you’re typing on autopilot.
[EVERYTHING IS CAPS LOCK!!]
It’s Bingley’s favorite button, and he hits the mark every time.