How my fur-baby is teaching me to be a parent.

I’ve never gotten a Mother’s Day card. I’ve never had labor pains or contractions. I’ve never sat outside my baby’s door while he cried and prayed for him to soothe himself to sleep.

But I have comforted a scared baby in the middle of the night while the thunder rolls. I have rolled groggily out of bed in the wee hours to take care of bathroom needs. I have inspected poop and discussed bathroom habits at length. I have had a tiny head (or a heavy head, in recent weeks) fall asleep on my chest; I have also woken up with small feet in my ribs. I have taken my baby to sitters’ houses and to the doctor’s office and driven away while she cried and didn’t understand why I was leaving.

She didn’t come from my own body and I didn’t carry her for nine months, but she is no less my baby than someone else’s two-legged human child. And she has and is teaching me many things about how to be a good parent to those human children if and when they hopefully come along.

She has phases just like human children – she throws tantrums, she listens well sometimes and not at others, she is smart one day and sort of dumb the next. I have phases too; phases where I love her so much one moment and want to lock her in a box the next. I feel like that’s probably normal.

The phase we are in now is wanting to sleep on the bed at night, and I am learning a lot from the successes and failures of this phase.

She is allowed on the bed during the day, but has learned that she must (A) be invited, and (B) stay on the blue part of the comforter. These two things have been successful, although I don’t know how they stuck so well, but we at least have that.

In St. Kitts, she slept in the floor but would spend the last hour (between potty time and real waking up time) sleeping on the foot of the bed. When we came back to America, we decided there would be no dogs sleeping on the bed at all. This worked for a while and we didn’t have any problems. Then came the winter, when it was cold and I wanted to avoid taking her out to potty as long as possible. I found Meera would sleep longer and more soundly if we let her sleep at the foot of the bed; so we did. This also served the double purpose of keeping our feet extra toasty. When the summer started, she made us too hot and had to resume sleeping in the floor.

Well, she didn’t like that so much.

At first, she would give us the horrible pleading puppy eyes at bedtime and we wouldn’t have the heart to make her move. She got her way for a while. Then, she would start out in the floor but later disregard the “must be invited” rule and sneak onto the bed in the middle of the night when we either wouldn’t notice or would be too exhausted to bother trying to correct her. She won again. Now, most recently, she starts out in the floor and tries to sneak onto the bed. I make her get down and tell her to be quiet. She settles back into the floor for about 10 minutes before taking up a post near my head and groaning softly until I acknowledge her presence.

“Hush, Meera! Lie down!”

She resumes her silent staring. A few minutes later, the groaning starts again. “NO, Meera!” Silence. Then she’ll go around to the foot of the bed and try to make another sneak attempt where she doesn’t have to climb over me and might get away with it. The Mister wakes up irritated at this point.

“Meera! Get down! Shut up!”

This cycle repeats itself throughout the night.

On the one hand, I’m always tempted to just pat the mattress and let her win. It’s faster, easier, and I can go back to sleep without further incident. That little head curled up on my legs is so comforting. But there is always the inevitable moment hours later when I try to move my legs and can’t – there’s a very large, very solid object in the way. Said object is more than half my body weight and very, very warm. Said object is also, probably, snoring. You see, she observes the “stay only on the blue part” rule very well, and at night, when the comforter is pulled up around the Mister and I, the entire bed is the blue part… and she wants it all.

Down she goes into the floor again and the routine resumes. I don’t feel like we’re getting much sleep.

On the other hand, I can stay strong, be firm and say no. It won’t kill her to sleep in the floor or in the armchair in the living room. This, while painful for me now, is ultimately for her own good. Parents have to be the bad guys sometimes. If I let her win, she will run my life. I am her mother, not her friend. Be a parent, not a peer. Stay strong!

The voices in my head repeat these and other such cliches throughout the cycle.

In the morning, she’s always by my feet. I don’t know how this happens. We’ll try again tomorrow.

So, in summary, parenting lessons learned:

  • Don’t let the babies start doing things you don’t want them to do forever, because it’s harder to change the habit than to prevent the habit.
  • When you say no, mean it. They know when you are weak. Be strong!!
  • Just because she doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s hurting her.
  • Punishments must be consistent and predictable. She has to know that when she gets on the bed or knocks over the trash or doesn’t come when she’s called she will get a predictable, unpleasant result every. single. time. Not just sometimes, because she’s willing to play the odds. (See #2.)
  • I am a total pushover.

I think everyone thinking of someday having human children should have to train a dog first.

What do you think?

Dear Diary: I’m in love!

Dear Diary,

Now, I know I haven’t written anything in a long time, but I have such exciting news that I just couldn’t wait to share it. I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!!

I used to think every day would always be the same: stare at mommy until she wakes up, check the yard for squirrels, and then spend all day sleeping on the couch and guarding the house until daddy gets home from work. But now, NOW there is something wonderful to look forward to in the evenings. After mommy and daddy are done with their dinner (which always smells so much better than mine and I don’t know why they don’t share), we go outside. And if we stay outside long enough, sometimes, if I am lucky, HE comes outside too.

They call him Tyson, and he is wonderful.

He likes to dig, just like me! We dig and dig and dig. Tyson’s holes are bigger than mine though, because he uses his mouth like a shovel and moves more dirt that way. Those are my favorite days – the days when I get to dig holes with Tyson. Maybe one day he will look up from his holes and see me as more than just the girl down the driveway. Someday… But for now we will dig our holes and play chase and I will teach Tyson how to catch squirrels. If he can catch a squirrel, then he will love me and we will be friends forever.

But he cannot have my favorite ball, or touch my people. I don’t share my people.

Love,

Meera

Didgeri-don’t

My husband helped somebody move last week, and when he picked me up from work that afternoon he had a strange object in the back seat.

“If you can guess what it is, I will be impressed,” he said.

I picked up the object and felt it through its long fabric sleeve. At 3-4 feet long, it was not completely straight and was open at both ends.

“I don’t know. Some sort of instrument?”

“Wow. You’ll never guess what kind.”

I took the first wild guess that came to mind. “A didgeridoo?”

The mister’s mouth fell open.

We own a didgeridoo. An actual, real life didgeridoo.

For those of you who don’t know (because why in the world would you?), a didgeridoo is basically a long smooth tube made of some sort of wood that aborigines play in Australia. [Picture courtesy of Google.] NO IDEA why the people Matt helped had one, but they were going to throw it out. So now we have it. Still not sure why….. but we at least found a good use for it the other night.

It drives our dog NUTS! (And probably all the other dogs in a five mile radius, although that hasn’t been confirmed.)

First off, I think the noise unnerves her. As it would most creatures, I think, since it sounds like a very long expulsion of gas from the body. (Colloquially known as a barking spider, squashed frog, bubble or fart.)

Secondly, she seems particularly disturbed by the fact that the noise does not seem to be coming from daddy himself. Instead, it’s coming from a hole several feet away from daddy, but that may or may not be attacking daddy via a long tube that’s eating his face. I think that would bother me too, if I were a dog. Actually, it sort of bothers me now.

The video below is for your personal viewing pleasure. Treat yourself to the musical inclinations of the mister and the mutt as they perform an inspired duet entitled, “Daddy, I will protect you from the evil noise-making thing as long as it doesn’t get too close to me.”

The didgeridoo creates a very deep noise, so you may not be able to hear it well on the video, but Meera’s reaction to it is definitely audible. Enjoy.

What was that noise??!!!!!

I’m not a parent yet, so I don’t know off the top of my head when human children start sleeping soundly through the night, but I do know it’s probably before they’re a full year old. And certainly before they’re seven years old – which is supposedly the human equivalent of how old Meera (almost) is now.

Our problem right now, actually, isn’t that she doesn’t sleep through the night (although sometimes she doesn’t). The real problem is that she’s sleeping TOO WELL.

Right before we left her on the island for Christmas break we had started the bad habit of letting her sleep on the big bed with us at night. Thankfully, being made to sleep in her kennel while with the dog sitter broke her of that expectation (mostly), and we’ve finally graduated to sleeping in our own beds.

Which has only one down side: This dog has CRAZY dreams!

It wasn’t a big deal when she’d mostly sleep on the rug beside the bed because there wasn’t anything for her to bump into during her violent mongoose-chasing spasms. Even when she’d sleep on the end of the bed our legs somehow kept her from moving around too much. But ever since we got back from the holidays and she started sleeping primarily in her kennel, she kicks the walls and rattles the door and wakes me up in a panic at least once a night. And she barks in her sleep, which has always sounded like she’s barking underwater and is incredibly cute during the day, but at night it scares the poo out of me. A few nights ago I bolted up in bed and shook Matthew awake because she was growling – and not just sort of sleep-growling, but really growling, as if she was wide awake and defending us from something.

But she wasn’t, because she was fast asleep and probably cornering a chicken or something.

I’m glad she likes having a big blanket in her kennel. I’m glad she only comes up to the side of the bed to bother me half as much now. I’m glad she apparently has good dreams. But it would really be great if she could somehow learn not to throw her kennel into the bathroom wall four times a night and give her mother small heart attacks. It’s really starting to affect mine and the Mister’s sleep cycles.

On a similar note – do any of you dog owners or trainers out there have suggestions on how to keep a dog awake against their will? Meera likes to take a nap at about 7 p.m. while we’re watching TV after dinner – which of course means she doesn’t want to settle down and go to bed at 10 and leave us alone. Ideas?

The Laughter in My Head

Over Christmas, I saw a Pier One Imports commercial about an adorable little penguin with his foot “smooshed in a cupcake.” It never failed to make me grin uncontrollably for the rest of the day and soon even became the Mister’s ringtone. (If you’re a sad soul who never caught this commercial, feel free to view it here.)

We all have those things that just make us smile, cry or laugh manically, every time we see them. Well, for the Mister, it’s this:

Dog bops cat on the head

 

Seriously. Manical laughter. It’s quite frightening.

 

What’s your instant-laugh trigger? Share pictures or stories here or on the Facebook page.