Thursday, January 26, 2012

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

If you had asked me 10 years ago whether I'd be a good dog owner, I'd have said 'sure!' because I knew very little about caring for dogs, even though we had a dog growing up. With a fence around our yard, all I had to do was open the door and let Lady out or in. Mom fed her every day, and when we went on vacation, my aunt and uncle next door took the dog while we were gone. As far as I knew, there was no work involved--just fun.

As a young twenty-something, I thought of babies the same way I used to think of dogs. Lots of fun, no real work except changing the occasional diaper. Yeah, I know. I was clueless about a lot of things back then.

My husband and brother-in-law often tell me that I let my children take advantage of me. Sure, I make threats to get them to do what they're supposed to, and I try to follow through, but come on. I also have to make dinner, walk the dogs, update my blog and a million other things. If they're still watching cartoons instead of doing homework, even though I threatened to take television away for a week, well how can I get anything done if I actually *do* that? The fact is, I can't I *need* the availability of television. Why can't they just do what they're told??

I never really put the ideas of dog ownership and parenting together in the same thought before. But this morning, I realized that not only am I sending the wrong message to my children, I'm sending the same message to my dogs.

After a morning walk, our beagle, Flash, likes to wrestle with Bailey, our lab. Despite being only half Bailey's size, Flash is relentless in his pursuit of entanglement. He'll chase Bailey, jump at his neck, roll over in front of him and attach himself to Bailey's heel, following him around in circles and barking ceaselessly until he gets some attention. Bailey, to his credit, will often play. If he's in the mood. But sometimes, he's just not, and I totally get that. When this is the case, he'll growl at Flash to make him go away.

It doesn't work.

So Bailey growls louder, more deeply, more menacingly. Flash remains unfazed. Ultimately, Bailey will bark a bark that would make a junkyard dog run the other way. It's downright scary to hear.

But not to Flash.

I keep waiting for Bailey to take a nip out of Flash, to really get the message across. "That would teach him," I think. "Let him know you mean it, Bailey!" I cry.

But Bailey just walks away. And in that moment, I see myself. Yelling louder, hurling ever more dire threats of, "You had betters..." and "Ooh, I'm gonnas...." and then leaving and ignoring the lack of compliance.

They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step in fixing it. Thanks to my dog, I realize I have some parenting skills to work on. Otherwise, like Flash, my kids will never take my threats seriously. Maybe we can do it together, Bailey and I. Like exercise, these things are always easier with a friend.

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