Friday, July 25, 2008
Perfectionist Parenting at its Worst
Greetings Strong Kukd Mommas and Inquisitive Guests, from the Person Who Has Established Herself as a Sleepless, Jittery Tooth-Grinder With a Peeing Problem (call me PWHEHSJTGPP for shorts).
Beautiful, totally-exceeding-my-expectations Vilnius (that's the capital of Lithuania, by the way, not a brand of shampoo or an elegant restaurant) is inspiring me to talk briefly about one of the many reasons why I'm glad I'm doing this trip: it's really good for me to be away from my kid - oops, I mean my dog Tebow - for a while.
That's because I think I was in danger of becoming that uber-protective, obsessive doggy mommy that everyone makes fun of. I mean, there are such mommies of real children, and I do always look at those mommies and hope I don't ever become one. But there's something worse about being that way with a dog, something that gets eaten in dog stew in other countries. Not to mention a dog acquired as a quick baby replacement, something the BOGS would wholeheartedly disapprove of.
Here's what happened with Tebow. You know how everyone always thinks they know the best way(s) to parent a child? I mean, how freakin' easy is it to look at other parents and criticize what they do (no daughter of MINE would ever have a cell phone before her late twenties, when I got one!).
Well, I had my mental list of parenting strategies too, many of which I'd picked up from my own near-perfect parents, and planned on implementing long before either of my doomed fetuses (fetii?) had ever been conceived. And when Tebow entered the picture, I became obsessed with transferring those parenting strategies to my own puppy: that is, make sure that Tebow lived, in doggy terms, the kind of life that I would want my own child to have.
The problem was, the puppy-training books all warned me fervently that I had to do everything I could before Tebow hit the 16-week age mark, because after that, he would no longer be so impressionable. All bad habits would remain forever, and no further good habits would develop. And since we got him at 12 weeks, I had a very limited time frame in which to mold my puppy into a dog with a beautiful character. So I went on a mad, insane rush to get as much of it done as possible before that looming 16-week deadline. Some examples:
1) Child shall be peaceful, well-socialized, and accepting of people from all races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds (mad dashes to the dog park and puppy play group after work, begging pedestrians to stop and pet and hold my puppy, taking him everywhere on my bike)
2) Parent shall give child world experiences and independence by letting go of parental control and pushing him out into the world to figure things out on his own (dog park as a puppy: letting him wander alone, not rushing to his defense when other dogs tried to hump him or paw-smack him, allowing him to deal with canine confrontation on his own, as much as it hurt my heart)
3) Child shall not be viewed as mere accessory to my life, but as a real being with curiosities, needs, desires, and therefore shall get to try lots of new things even though they might not seem conventional (Tebow gets as much off-leash, squirrel-chasing, lake-swimming, unfettered romping, mud-rolling time as possible because THAT'S WHAT DOGS DO, even though it means risking $100 tickets and extra baths)
It was really stressful trying to cram all this character-development into such a short period of time while also juggling a new job and coming to terms with my fresh KuKd status. K can attest to the teary-eyed conversations where I would whine, "it's too much!!!"
Now that the 16-week mark is long past (Tebow is turning one on July 30th!) and all that pressure is off, I'm much, much better. Tebow is definitely not a perfect dog, his biggest shortcoming being that he's slightly over-attached and howls like there's no tomorrow when K and I leave. But he's close enough to perfect to fill my heart with puppy-motherly pride, and plus I think I secretly like that he loves me and K so passionately, expressing his affection so unabashedly.
I think it's healthy to be away, for the fourth parenting mantra is: parent shall not become emotionally dependent on child. I like knowing that I can survive without that scruffy little boy. And, although I was worried about leaving him for five weeks (he's in good hands, don't worry), K pointed out that "he'll be stronger from this experience."
I think I'll be stronger from this experience, too.