Ms. Wolverine on Co-Sleeping With Your Kits

Yes, I’ve been really, really horrible at sticking to a schedule with this blog. Since Wolverine Birthday fell on a weekend, I made a decision to turn the computer off for a change and spend time outdoors doing real things. When you’re primarily self-employed, you run a huge risk of creating a never-ending work cycle, much of which involves sitting in front of a screen. This is even worse when you work with colleagues across multiple time zones. Sometimes I find myself emerging from a haze of communication with various parties only to discover it’s 2:00 a.m. and I still have some other deadline to meet before the sun rises. You have to draw a line somewhere, so I decided that it would be a mostly screen-free weekend.

So first: Happy (belated – though since there’s variation in actual birth days, it’s probably all okay) Wolverine Birthday! Here is an image of congratulations to all the wolverine mothers out there. Also the wolverine fathers, but they are out getting food or patrolling territory, so didn’t make it into the picture.

DSCN3440Now to give the stage to Ms. Wolverine, who has been taking questions from those faced with problems or difficulties for which a wolverine might have particular insight. Many thanks to all who submitted their various quandaries. Of course, I want to issue a little disclaimer here: as you probably discern by her name, Ms. Wolverine is a wolverine. Her advice may or may not actually be appropriate for humans to follow. Please use your judgement. For example, I would not personally encourage my friends to evict their children from home at age two. So please bear in mind that what is appropriate for Gulo gulo may not be for Homo sapiens. You will, however, definitely learn a bit about wolverine life history.

And now – our first question is from a new mom. Ms. Wolverine thought that this was the appropriate query to answer first, in honor of Wolverine Birthday.

Dear Ms. Wolverine,
We co-sleep with our baby. Whenever Mama leaves his side, he wakes up and fusses. How will we ever have sex again?
-Anonymous
Dear Anonymous,
When your kits are very young, they are demanding. This is a difficult time for new parents, but especially for new moms. Your kit depends on you for everything, and all of your attention must be devoted to attending to its needs. Pretty soon your fur is matted, you’re covered in baby scat, your den is a mess, you can barely get out the door to hunt up a pika, never mind scavenge a juicy bighorn sheep or mountain goat, and then you’re faced with the need to dig out a new den to move your kits out of the messy natal den, which is just a big pain – in short, you’re totally exhausted by the energetic demands of having brought a kit to term and, after the birth, nursing it and taking care of it. Nursing in particular is very energetically demanding, and it stresses us all out, and it makes our minds and bodies do weird things, and changes our priorities. So this is a challenging adjustment for parents who are not used to being tied down by biological needs other than their own.
While your kit is this small, of course he is going to need to sleep with you. You have to keep him warm, safe, and fed. But cheer up, because pretty soon your kit will not be this small. In a few months he will be independently mobile, and you can encourage him to leave your side from time to time and explore on his own. Also, once he is finished nursing, it is no longer necessary to sleep beside him. Even if he fusses now when you leave his side, you can encourage your kit, as he gets older and more capable of logic, to see that the world is a big and interesting place and that some independent exploration and time alone are good things. This will be easier when he can do something other than lie there flailing around and mewling – when he can crawl, hold things with his paws, and chew on bones or scraps of hide, he will be more distractable and less inclined to notice you are gone. 
Also, sometimes we are inclined to be very protective and overly involved with every aspect of a kit’s life, and keep it with us all the time, but the point of having a kit is to allow it to experience the world on its own, disperse, establish its own territory, and, hopefully, successfully reproduce in order to pass on your genes and sustain the population. So it’s good to begin to encourage some independence early. At an appropriate time, you can perhaps just leave the den for a bit while the kit is sleeping, even if he whimpers and fusses for a while. He will learn to take in more of his surroundings instead of just looking for you, and this will serve him well, because if he grows up and is still just waiting for his mom to take care of him, and looking around all the time for her, it will be very easy for him to miss the mountain lion or wolf sneaking up on him to kill him.
By June or July, when mating season begins, your kit will be full size and you can task him with going to hunt a squirrel or something, and then hope that he is still hunting the squirrel when you encounter your mate on one of his and your overlapping territorial patrols. Then you can have sex without kit interference.
Oh wait. I forgot. Human mating season is perpetual.
Here’s my suggestion if you want to have sex before official mating season: does your kit nap? Do you always nap with him? If there is any time when your kit is asleep on his own, track down your mate and have sex then, even if it is in the middle of the day in some strange location. Who knows, it might make things more interesting and compensate for the lack of frequency by substituting… variety? Creativity? I’m a wolverine, I don’t know for sure how all this works with humans. I think it’s logical to have a mating season and to keep it separate from intensive-small-kit-rearing season. But I surmise that since you are social animals, you need to maintain your bonds with your mate, and that more frequent sex allows this and thereby benefits the ultimate success of your family, your kit, and your species. So therefore I encourage you to be creative about time and location. As an alternative, since you are social animals with extensive social networks, see if one of your close friends or relatives could watch your kit for a little while at their den if he absolutely refuses to nap without you. Social animals like being cooperative about helping raise each other’s babies, especially if they are from the same community; just look at wolves. Although if you do ask one of your friends to watch your kit, I encourage you not to go into detail as to why, because she probably does not need to know. 
Aside from that, though, don’t forget that being a new mother is full of all kinds of challenges, but that you are going to do fine at figuring them all out. Taking good care of your kit is not the hardest part; if you have any maternal instinct, which I know you do, you’ll be good at it. The difficult bit is figuring out how to stop being too involved at critical points, and fostering the independence they need to become successful autonomous adults – which will give you the time you need to reconnect with your mate. We generally make it clear to our kits that they need to disperse before age two – it’s necessary, but so hard to know that you are sending them out to possibly die in search of their own territory. Such are the emotional travails of motherhood.
Good luck!
Ms. Wolverine

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Ms. Wolverine on Co-Sleeping With Your Kits

  1. Great stuff! Reminds me of Jack London, Chapter III of White Fang. (Jack London wasn’t actually wolf, was he Mrs. Wolverine?)

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