Are Pets Children?

Whom Care?

Call your dumb family whatever you want


Today, online, someone had an opinion. This one was about which words people are and are not allowed to use, which is always a fruitful road to walk down.

The piece was called “Pets Are Not Children, So Stop Calling Them That,” and it ran this morning on New York Magazine’s The Cut, tagged as a parenting post:

Parenting is our connection to the future, the means by which we attempt to influence what tomorrow’s world will be. When people with pets take the title of “parent” and blur the line between pets and children, our language is distorted in a way that only adds to our confusion and anxiety. It may be a gentle delusion to think of your pet as your “child,” but it’s still a delusion. Misnaming our relationship with pets isn’t just a lighthearted goof. It’s a retreat from the world.

Replace “pets” and “children” with any other two low-stakes nouns in this scenario and see if you can muster up the audacity give a shit. “Nanas are not meemaws, so stop calling them that.” “Junior archery counselors are not archery counselors,” etc. Not only do I still not feel strongly, but I’d love to avoid talking to the person who does! Imagine being at a party and accidentally touching upon this topic, and then having to hear this person’s five minute outline of their own parameters and rules for the distinctions between pets and children. Gut me. Flay me. Call me to the kitchen, I need an out.

“Pets,” they might say to you, with a serious look in their eye and a cocktail in their hand. “Are animals like dogs and cats. And children… are not.”

Here’s the thing: Your personal taste is not a hard-wired objective guide for operating within the world. It’s just a system of tips and tricks you’ve found along the way that don’t ruffle your own feathers. Congratulations on not pissing yourself off every waking moment, but presenting your personal preferences to me with a hard binary rubric as though I am suddenly beholden to pick a side is… divorced from reality. It happens on social media all the time, but when it leaks into the opinions column media circuit and becomes an hours-long cross-platform conversation, my bowels evacuate.

“Pets and children,” my Twitter feed was tweeting this morning. “Children and pets.”

I would love, if at all possible, when a piece like this comes out, for people to just go, “Huh,” and then not click on it. “Hm seems dumb,” and then just trust that it is. I know this is not possible, because people love punishment (specifically punishing themselves with really bad art all of the time), but this is my dream and I’m daring to dream it.

So, hey, the next time you see a headline like this, and it sounds like it was written by a troll with a pseudonym to garner the clicks of people who like to look at things and say, “At least I’m not that idiot!” just remember you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Whom care.