Relationships Matter. I know there are many of you who consider themselves a "pet person" but I tend to be a "people person" so pets are nice, but I prefer them to be outdoors in my world. I am never mean to the cats, and would miss them if they were gone, but in reality, I am a disappointment to some of my cat loving family and friends. However, my husband and son could be considered cat whisperers because they spend quality time with our cats and as a result have a close relationship with all of them, wielding a lot of influence over their behavior. I, on the other hand, occasionally throw a can of cat food into their bowl, scratch their heads and talk to them as I pass by. I readily admit I am attached to them somewhat, but in no way do I have a quality relationship with them and alas, it shows. Do you know those who treat people this way too?
The kittens tend to be leery of me, even afraid, but the older cats know that I'm good for a couple of minutes of petting them and a brief "how are you" conversation, so we're more like acquaintances than friends. But if I take the time to talk to the kittens one-on-one in a soft voice with my hand extended to them, I can usually entice them to let me pet them. One small victory for the people person.
On a recent walk, the kittens were gravitating toward the highway that runs past our house. I was trying to talk them out of this and encouraging their mother to get them back to the yard, but my directions were falling on deaf ears. As I began to adjust my path to go round up the kittens, my husband came out of the house and saw what was happening. Immediately he tells them to get back to the house and away from the road and they all did exactly what he told them to do! Isn't that just like people? We listen to those who we know care about us. It's no wonder when he comes outside they come running, and when I come outside, they often run the other way!
One of our kittens is a little different in the way he looks compared to the other three, and definitely is different in his temperament. My husband calls him "Timmy" because he's naturally timid, slow to trust others, and easily spooked. All the kittens are just as cute as can be and very active, investigating and pouncing on unsuspecting bugs or blowing leaves, and wrestling with each other. Even Timmy lurks around checking out all the sights and moving things he finds in our yard. He is a little less timid if his siblings are around - a good case for the old adage that there is safety in numbers. The kittens chase each other up and around the trees, exploring the junk around our barn, and follow me while I'm walking. They are naturally curious and looking for fun. Just like our own human kids tend to be.... until we tell them to sit down and be quiet.
In contrast to the activity of the kittens is the slower pace of the adult cats. They lay around, eat, groom themselves and each other, go directly from point A to point B without much investigation, and wait for the "people" to pet them and give them some love. They tolerate the bouncing kittens who want to play, but passionately defend them when a stray tom cat ventures into our neighborhood. They are content and in their happy place. Isn't this like a lot of adults you know?
School is getting ready to start in the next month and my farm cats made me think of the many relationships and feelings that exist at school, whether it's an elementary school, high school, or university. There will be new students and teachers too, who are both excited and timid in their new situation. They will explore and investigate their new environment and find comfort and allegiance in those who give them attention and make an effort to know and guide them. We can only hope it will be the kind of attention we want them to have. They will also be unsure, and will view new situations and some people with skepticism. We hope someone will reach out and give them a hand, mentoring them toward excellence and fulfillment.
As they gain more friends, they will gain more confidence, try new things, and understand their boundaries. They will continue to be excited and energetic if that is what we encourage. We want them to settle in and be comfortable, but not so comfortable that they no longer are curious and become complacent.
I worry about the kid that is different or who hasn't found their niche in their new school. There is comfort in having a circle of friends with whom to play or study, or simply eat with at lunch. We often think of new students, but forget that there are new teachers too. They may be totally new to education or simply new to this particular school. They too need mentoring and patience as they find their way in a new environment.
How will we respond to the kids in our school, our classroom, on our bus, or in our community? All kids need to feel like they belong and are cared for by those who live and work within their world. All teachers need to feel they are supported and appreciated too. How will we make a difference? Will we just throw some food their bowl and pet them occasionally, as I have done too often with our cats? Or will we nurture them and give them the attention they deserve so they can trust us and know they are loved and cared for like my husband and son treat our cats?
I may not be a pet person, but I am a people person, and I want to make sure I do my part to be welcoming and helpful to others every day. My grandsons will be attending a new school this fall. I hope someone makes them feel welcome, nurtures them, and helps them find a positive place to learn and grow so they will feel right at home because it's a little farther to grandma's house than it used to be.