Sunday, September 28, 2014

Everything I Needed to Know About Parenting I Learned From My Dog

This is Otis.  Isn't he adorable?  We named him Otis after the Otis Elevator Company.  We've only had him for a couple of weeks now, but life with a dog has actually caused me to reflect on my parenting!

For instance, Otis is still a puppy.  He's still navigating the world, exploring what he can get into as well as what's acceptable and what's not.  He knows the command "sit" but other than that, he still needs some training.  Right now, I'm working on training him not to pull on his leash.  He gets very excited when it's time to go for a walk and he just wants to take off and see everything he can see.  He hasn't quite learned yet to walk next to me.  It's for his own good.  I don't want him taking off into traffic or choking himself with his collar.  I also want him to learn who is in charge of the walk.  I've watched videos online of the best ways to train a dog to walk on a leash so, you know, obviously I'm an expert at this.  We've practiced in the house, in the yard, and on actual walks.  He's still not there yet.  He does well for parts of the walk but on other parts, I wonder if he remembers anything at all that we have worked on.  Sometimes I start to get frustrated that he doesn't have this down yet.

Training Otis something new hasn't been an instant lesson learned.  It is taking time, patience, and practice.  The same is true of being a parent.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Training takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes practice.  It can be sometimes frustrating and feel like it's not working.  But it will be worth it in the end.

Another thing I've learned from having Otis is just the value of having quality play time.  Otis loves being around people.  I don't have to worry too much about him running away because he loves to be around us so much.  However, sometimes Otis has to stay home by himself during the day.  When we get home, he gets SOOOOO excited he can't contain himself.  His tail starts wagging at warp speed when he sees the car pull into the driveway.  He watches us walk up through the window.  As soon as that front door opens, he becomes Otis, the psycho spazzy dog.  He runs around the house.  He jumps freakishly high. He runs over for some love and then runs around some more.  He is so excited we are home to see him.  He runs and gets his toys, socks, and children's underwear that he has somehow managed to find to play with and anything else he can find just to spend time with us.  He doesn't just want us to pet him.  He wants to PLAY!  

That has been a good reminder for me.  Often times when we get home, the kids and I are hungry. When we walk in, I put my things down and start fixing dinner as the boys find something to do until dinner is ready.  Often times they start fighting with each other while I'm trying to cook.  We haven't seen each other all day and the first thing I do is start working immediately after we arrive home.  I had made a goal a while back to spend the first 15 minutes when we got home just relaxing and playing with the kids before I started fixing dinner.  I did that for a little while but not long enough to create a habit.  Having Otis has reminded me of the importance of quality play time.  When the kids are older, they are not going to remember what I made for dinner each night as soon as we got home... at least I hope not... I'm not the best cook!  But they will remember the times we spent together having real, quality time.

Anyway, for  now those are the two biggest life lessons I've learned from my dog.  It's been a good reminder to be more intentional with my kids in many ways.