What A Boxer Puppy Taught Me About Parenting
Looking back, it hit me when my first born was eleven months old and I was three months pregnant with number two and exhausted. As I laid on the floor in the living room, I remember jokingly saying "Carter, go to your room and bring me your Goodnight Moon book so we can read it before bed." My mouth about fell to the floor when I noticed him half-walking-half-crawling back into the room, with the book in tow.
I realized, then and there, that this kid was way smarter than I gave him credit for. From that point on, I made a conscious effort to remember he knows more and can do more than I realize and I can embark on the long journey to help achieve every parent's ultimate goal of molding their child into an independent, happy and successful adult… and begin this even before he is out of diapers.
I was reading a children’s development book my friend Diane gave me that talked of "sensitive periods." They describe them as a certain time period when a child's brain is urging him to focus like a laser on a particular skill, mastering a developmental milestone or immersing himself in an experience.
Something told me to re-read this and a light bulb went off in my head. I had dozens of flashbacks over the last three years suddenly pop into my head. I remembered when Carter, my young four year old, asked us for three days straight to practice addition problems with him…. completely out of the blue. He couldn't get enough of what seven plus five was. Or other times, like when he only wanted to read from his space and planet book, every night for two weeks straight. I remember begging him to choose different book.
I remember my two year old daughter, a few months ago, suddenly wanting to practice writing letters all the time and when she really wanted to do nothing but master her front flip in the living room.
Although it didn’t mean anything then, it makes perfect sense now. This “ah ha” moment taught me to allow my kids tell me what they want to learn about at their super young age. My job, in return, is to expose them to as much as possible and be ready to expand from there. I can help give them the information they are so desperately asking for at the moment in time when they actually care to learn about it.
Perhaps, it's a trip to the crazy, smelly, nasty Snake Farm up I-35 the next time Carter is in a bug and reptile "period." Or for Addie, it may be as simple as dropping everything when she wants me to watch her write the letters "A" and “D” upside down instead of folding that load of laundry or checking work email in the evenings. The bottom line is that they are little sponges right now and I need to help provide the water for them to soak up as much as they can.
This moment in time with Carter and Addie had me reminiscing back to when I got Maverick, my now nine year old boxer, for $350 in 2002. This was my first big purchase after graduating college and starting my first real job. I had the pick of the litter from his eleven brothers and sisters. An overwhelming desire hit me once I had my first night with him. I wanted to be the best "owner" to Maverick and to ensure I was giving him the best start possible, I bought three dog training books and had him enrolled at "puppy school" at the ripe ol' age of twelve weeks… for those that know me well… surprising huh???
One of the recommendations of the puppy book was "introduce your new puppy to as many new things as you can in their first year.” So yes… I was the twenty-two year old girl that went up to scary looking, old men who had big shaggy beards to have them pet my little puppy so just in case, by chance, my future un-met husband ever had a beard. “Mav” and I also spent an afternoon picnicking by a busy railroad crossing so that my then five month old puppy would be comfortable if and when he heard a loud train as an adult. As over the top as it was (and showing me now how I had entirely too much time on my hands), I truly have seen the beneficial effect these dedicated measures have had on his demeanor and more importantly, the reversely negative effects when I didn't apply this advice with regards to introducing him to swimming by the age of one.
To this very day, even with our dozens of trips each year to the lake, beach and river, there is no getting around the fact that my very athletically and in-shape boxer sinks like a one-ton boulder instantly to the bottom of any body of water. When tested over the years, it has resulted 100% of the time in countless rescues by my sweet husband.
So with those fond memories, an idea popped into my head. I wanted to spend this spring really focusing on this same idea with my children. I challenged my husband to a ninety day test to get us to remember to think like two people who have only been on Earth for an average of 1200 days. At first, I’ll admit, it was way harder than I thought it would be since they are almost three and four years old. I had to actually think hard on some days to consciously find something completely novel to them. After a stressful day at work when my husband was traveling overnight, all I really wanted to do was go through our comfortably common routine of soccer practice, dinner, bath, books and bed.
But I have seen it do both my husband and I good. For the past thirty days, multiple times a day, no matter if I am applying makeup in the mornings, cleaning out the garage or making dinner, I am constantly thinking of “what have they not done before that they would like to do?” I have to say it has helped me be more present in the moment and to see the world through their young and naive eyes… And to think all this is because of my boxer puppy…
04.11.11: Taught them the sign language signal for "I LOVE YOU!" I told them
they can do it to each other if they ever were across the room or playground from one another
04.12.11: Taught them what an eraser does and the difference between erasing
pen and pencil
04.13.11: Taught the to hold a DVD so not to scratch it
04.14.11: Taught them to do a cartwheel
04.15.11: Taught them to wrap a present on their own
04.16.11: Taught them how to play the game of washers
04.17.11: Taught them how to clean a window with newspaper and Windex
04.18.11: Taught them how to take a shower by themselves
04.19.11: Taught them how to snap snaps on shirt
04.20.11: Taught them how to close a zip lock bag
04.21.11: Taught them how to declare a "thumb war"
04.22.11: Taught them how to crack an egg and scramble it
04.23.11: Taught them how to do a frog kick in the swimming pool
04.24.11: Taught them how to play rock-paper-scissors
04.25.11: Taught them how to crack a hard boiled egg and what the albumen is
04.26.11: Taught them how to do a push up
04.27.11: Taught them how to order dinner for themselves at Chick-Fil-A
04.28.11: Taught them to pay for nail polish at the CVS with cash and what
04.29.11: Taught them how to open a hotel door with a card key
04.30.11: First time in a hot tub, swimming outside when it was too cold in a pool
05.1.11: Taught them how to pull the lever down at Orange Leaf to get
the yogurt they wanted by themselves
05.2.11: Taught them how to use a tape measure to measure how tall each
one another are