Many of you may have noticed in the last 10 days or so a certain "dog" like theme entering my posts and tweets. Some have boldly wondered and directly enquired whether I was dog sitting or not.
Yes, I am. But because I over-analyze and over-think things sometimes, I also became very amused that *this* was the question (more than once) asked in response to the sudden influx of canine characterizations.
I do amuse easily.
But I am amused because it has become clear that in 160ish posts or so, and 4,300+ 140 character tweets or so that YOU KNOW that if a dog were to suddenly enter my life, it probably would not be mine. That you all have gotten to know me so well to know that as much as I may love pups, I am not prepared for one of my own, and that I *KNOW* I'm not prepared for one of my own.
To be clear, I've had pets before. I've even had two dogs and two cats at the same time - and frankly, I do miss them dearly. But I was not raising them as a single parent, and while one day I hope to have the life and the patience that I could be a single parent (to someone of the feline or canine persuasion), I do know that right now that I do not have it in me. (Clearly, though I would prefer NOT to be a *single* parent, but I won't avoid the joy and companionship of an animal simply because I may be lacking human companionship, too)
While at some level joking (and being serious, too) about "parenting" animals, some of the same reasons I know better than to have a pet also led to my choice not to have real kidlings (the human variety). I have a lot of Mommy bloggers as readers and followers and I admire how hard it is to raise a child today. How easy, for example, it is to give into their every whine and demand. How hard it is to avoid raising holy terrors (wait, this isn't sounding as complimentary as I intended it to.. maybe my fingers are still tied in knots? Told you the Borg isn't always graceful....)
Well, gees, how do I get myself out of this hole? By admitting it wasn't entirely unrelated.
Yesterday I stumbled across another Mommy blog (there *DO* seem to be a lot of you out there!) reading Kit's latest post about Blogher, and how one of her valuable take-aways was meeting Babe_Chilla and how if she'd just rented a beach house she would have missed such a wonderful time.
I'll be honest, if Kit likes someone, I'm interested in learning more. And not just because she likes me... ;)
But, frankly, partly because she reminds me of my best friend and so she seems familiar to me, seems to have good taste, and because of her #wineparty, I met many of you. So, if Kit devotes a whole blog post to someone else, I'm gonna check her out. So I did.
Babe_Chilla's post yesterday was about Pushing Boundaries. And how much fun it is trying to train, er, teach young ones about boundaries. How to train, er, teach a young one how to behave well by showing that bad behavior will not be rewarded.
And I loved the blog entry and felt her pain, and I think that's why what started out very sweet and wonderful and supporting towards Mommies above started to appear to (although not intending to) venture into "snarky" control your holy terrors. Wait, I didn't actually say that above... *phew*
But I have often felt (as a non-parent, favorite aunt, soccer coach, girl scout leader, someone-who-always-gets-to-send-the-kids-back-kind-of-person) that this is really the keystone to good parenting (well, up there with feeding and clothing and changing diapers). Setting and maintaining boundaries. And I think it is also the keystone to managing relationships at any age.
BORG BLOG ASIDE: [And I hate writing that all at the same time because I hate the idea of setting "boundaries" with someone who I am close to, or someone I am intimate with or someone I trust. A part of me rebels at the idea that someone I would trust would need boundaries, and that is because, I guess, in an ideal world they wouldn't. They would know what is safe and what is not safe, what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. And frankly, that is a post for another day, perhaps, because I feel that one of the reasons my marriage failed was because I was not good at setting appropriate boundaries. (And while my fingers are itching to type more, my brain reminds them that this post is titled "DOG SITTING" - boundaries, dear fingers, boundaries!)]
As a non-parent, I have gently tread, but nonetheless frequently have made analogies and comparisons to dog training. Reward good behavior, ignore, discourage don't tolerate bad behavior. And that if you want a dog that doesn't get on the couch or bed or counter, then NEVER let them on the couch, bed or counter. Cesar Milan will tell you that dogs need structure, need boundaries. And they are constantly, like children, exploring to find out where they are. (They also need lots of exercise and activity to keep from getting bored, but, again, that's another aside). And if you allow them to get on the couch once and don't push them down because you're tired of doing it, they'll learn that there are certain times when it's okay to get on the couch, and they'll keep trying and testing to see "Now? is Now? a good time? Now? Now?"
A friend of mine has an adult son who has come home after a year of college and is taking a break. He's a good guy, from what I can see - I've just gotten to know him this spring and haven't had a lot of time to spend with him. He is working and not spending all his days playing video games (like I did in early 2011 when I wasn't working...). And she spoils him. He's her kid, and at the moment, she has to live with him, so it's completely her choice, decision, etc., how she wants to treat him and what expectations she wants to create in him - I'm not judging her here on these choices / decisions, or at least I am trying not to.
I do believe that he loves her, but it is hard for a third person to hear that in the way he speaks to her and the way that he demands certain things from her. None of them is unreasonable. And probably all of them are tasks she wants to do for him. And I support that. But it breaks my heart, I will admit, to hear, nonetheless, how this nineteen year old young man seems to expect these things, and seems to demand these things, without some exhibition of or expression of (that I can see) appreciation for what she does for him.
Before you "jump" on me (and really I put that it in quotes, because so far, dear readers, you have not shown yourselves to be the jumping kind - you have been good listeners and kind and supportive), I recognize whole-heartedly that I see just a slice of their interaction. And I do sincerely hope that there is something in his behavior in response that makes it worth her while to provide so much for him - more than simply a love of a mother for her child. (Although maybe that should be enough?) I recognize that there is (or hope that there is) more to the story than I see and that I relate above.
But I admit, lately, I have been much more aware, much more sensitive in listening to others interactions with each other. Hearing when someone demands something of another and whether there is kindness or underlying understanding or appreciation for the other person's compliance. (Wow, fingers, DOG SITTING!!!! Where are you going? Bad fingers...No, wait, there is a circular point...).
Babe_Chilla writes in her blog entry about a whining 30-month old girl. Each time her daughter demands in a way that is not appropriate, she responds to her as such. She illustrates with a demand her daughter made for water (all in CAPS). At the first demand, Chilla patiently responds: “OK my darling, how do we ask properly?” Baby girl tries again. Repeats what she's just said, and adds "PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE" to the end of it. A good start, but not what Chilla was looking for, so she goes another few rounds with her until her daughter finally gets it right.
Painful even reading it, I can't even imagine how much fun it is to do. But I really praise Babe_Chilla for her persistence. As I started to write two paragraphs above before I told my fingers they were wandering off topic, I really hear how we, as adults, often communicate with each other in the form of demands. So often without a please or a thank you, or even some acknowledgment that we are requesting another human being to do something that they don't actually need to do for us. And I think that's because as adults we often forget or don't even realize that the other person doesn't need to do ANYTHING for us and that each thing they do - even if they *are* being paid for it or otherwise rewarded - is a gift of their time, actions, kindness, etc., towards us or others.
Babe_Chilla could just give in when she hears the word "PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE" added in - Lord knows that is more than I often hear in daily interactions between folks - but she hasn't. Yes, daughter has made progress, but Babe_Chilla recognizes that this is still NOT the manner in which she wants her daughter asking for something, and she does her best to remain strong until she teaches her daughter exactly how it should be done. I think that she does this for her daughter, for herself, and for all of us. And I appreciate her for doing so.
Each night this puppy has a bed time routine that clearly I never concocted. We are establishing our own routines in this three week period, but this is one that she has ingrained and I was given clear instruction regarding. It has taken me awhile to recognize, at night, when she comes to me and tries to get my attention that it isn't because she needs to pee, but because she is afraid I will forget her night-time treat routine. (She trained me on this by several experiences where I took her out and she didn't pee) She doesn't care if I'm late with her morning chew, and often won't even whine if I'm late for dinner, but her bed-time routine she is pretty adamant about.
And frankly, I don't mind giving into her to do this routine because I think it's a wonderful exercise in rewarding good behavior. There are two kinds of treats that are given in some quantity each night. But each part of the treat is given in response to some pre-trained behavior she is supposed to do. The first half of the Beggin Strips goes to her after she properly shakes, for example. The second when she does the next trick. Etc., etc. So I appreciate this nightly exercise in reinforcing good behavior and I am trying really hard not to untrain this well behaved dog.
I admit I am not as good on our walks. She has been trained to stop at every corner and sit. And when I've walked her in the past with her owner, this is what we've done. This is a good exercise, and good reinforcement to sit and stop on command particularly in light of a potentially dangerous situation. I support the exercise in theory. But frankly, usually on our walks, I'm just not thinking about it, and she doesn't feel the need to remind me. Fortunately we often walk in circles and don't cross the street, or walk on long bike paths without such intersections. I hope my lack of discipline in these areas will simply affect her like that of a grandmother where the rules might be slightly different and that I don't undo all of her good training!
Alrighty, then, I think we're near the point where I'm supposed to neatly wrap this all into a ball and into some sort of conclusion. I began this post partly to express my amusement how in such a short period of time we've both been so successful in you getting to know me. That you recognize - what I'd like to think - is my ability to be responsible and not to take on a commitment that I am not prepared to do, so that if there were suddenly a canine in my life, it must be temporary. Talking about responsible pet ownership or choosing ownership responsibly, I made a connection to my choice not to be a parent. This led me to discuss the connections I do see between owner (or caretaker in this case) and dog and parent and child, and I wanted to tie the two together particularly with Babe_Chilla's post still fresh in my mind.
And, lastly, then I wanted to encourage and support all of the parents out there in the efforts you make and the hard work it takes to produce good, responsible, respectful and caring children. Particularly understanding that these children will become adults and the lessons you teach them painfully at 30-months will be more than amply rewarded by the wonderful human beings you create to go out and interact with the rest of the world. And as part of the rest of the world, I thank you.