Adventures in Parenting

Those of you who are parents already know that hardly any pursuit on earth can bring as much joy, passion, frustration, and despair as parenting. Sometimes you might get all four at the same time. Here are some of our latest adventures with Brenden and Jonathan.

The Mirror

When we moved into our house four years ago, two of the bedrooms had those 80s-style mirrored closet doors that slide open. Sometime in 2011, Brenden broke one of the mirrors on his closet door by either kicking it or rolling hard into it. Concerned that he might get cut by the glass, I completely removed and threw away the entire door assembly, leaving his closet open.

Jonathan’s room had the other set of mirrored closet doors, which we kept closed with a safety strap to keep him from tossing his clothes all over the room. Last week, Jonathan got bored one morning and decided he wanted to hide from us before we came to get him up. So he grabbed one side of the door and started pulling. Soon the brass edge piece came off, leaving the edge of the mirror exposed. Then he kept pulling, trying to open the sliding door outward like a regular swinging door. The mirror didn’t like that and shattered into several pieces held together only by the mirror backing. I still don’t see how he managed to do it without carving up his hands or stepping on glass shards. I donned the appropriate safety gear, removed the entire door assembly, and threw it away. So now neither boy has a closet door. We’ll replace them eventually…once they understand that destroying their house is generally a bad idea.

The Dog

I took the boys to the park to get some exercise. Soon after I sat down, a large, hyperactive dog ran up and jumped on me, dragging a leash behind it and chased by a little girl that probably weighed as much as the dog and obviously couldn’t control it. I shoved it away and looked around for the girl’s mother without success. Finally she showed up, and they all walked over to a nearby creekbed. I was already on edge but so far was resisting the temptation to go off on her. My boys were intrigued and watched the dog intently. Soon the dog bounded over to Brenden and started licking his face excitedly. As I hurried over to break them up, the mom tried to act friendly and gave me the typical line from such pet owners, “Oh, he’s fine, he won’t hurt anybody.”

No. You. Did. N’t.

I was nicer than I could have been and wanted to be, but I made it clear that I didn’t share her opinion and that she needed to keep her dog away from my children. She didn’t say anything but did finally grab the leash and lead the dog away.

Many pet people seem to make three bad assumptions:

  • Everyone else is an animal person, so surely everyone else loves their pets and won’t mind if those pets run around and get in everyone’s business.
  • Because their pets have never attacked anyone, they never will attack anyone.
  • Because they aren’t allergic to their pets, other people aren’t allergic to their pets, either.

Fortunately, even though Brenden is allergic to dogs, he suffered no ill effects from this incident. I didn’t shoot the dog or call the cops. I didn’t cuss out a stranger in front of my children. However, I did stand up for them. I hope that in the process, I gave the mom some things to think about.

Note to all pet owners: If your critter is threatening his kids, Papa Bear doesn’t give a bag of dog doo about your feelings or your pet.

The Battle

My children are stubborn just like me. They have no lack of self-esteem, don’t really get their feelings hurt even when they are in trouble, and tend to think their desires are the most important consideration for any given situation. For reasons I’m still unraveling, I want them to follow my directions exactly, much like a computer program or robot, and quickly get frustrated when (surprise!!) they don’t. Being far from a child care expert, my default response is to take a my-way-or-the-highway approach in which I quit listening to what they’re saying and browbeat them until they either comply or end up in time out.

That’s stupid. It’s based on the bad belief that their highest calling in life is to obey me. Please. Yes, they need to obey us, but they don’t need to be robots, either. The backbones that drive us crazy while they are kids will help them stand up for what’s right in the face of opposition when they are older.

So I’m trying to figure out a middle ground where they do what I ask by choice rather than by force. That means doing a better job of listening to them and understanding what they want rather than being too busy to consider their opinion. That means choosing my battles. That means fewer orders and more options, perhaps by setting a goal for them but letting them decide how to reach it instead of dictating exactly how I want it done.

Like everything in parenting, it’s a work in progress. Patience is not my strength, but I hope that changing my approach a bit will help it grow.