So far, I’ve had 4 dogs along with my three children (I like a challenge) and while I try to avoid comparing my 4-legged trouble makers to the 2-legged ones too much, I’ve found that I can draw at least one important parallel.
The newest addition to our over-sized crew is a sweet, lab mix puppy named McGregor. I’m kind of obsessed with him. Our favorite thing to do together is to go hiking at this unofficial dog park in our town. He’s never met another dog (or person) he doesn’t love and does well off-leash so he gets lots of compliments when we are out and about. As much as the compliments make me feel good, I know that he deserves most of the credit. Yes, I have put a fair amount of time into training him from the time he was a tiny fluff ball, but I’ve done that with all of my dogs (some have been given faaaar more time and effort, in fact) and McGregor is the only one who makes those frequent hiking trips. My first dog could never EVER be let off leash, it was simply not in her nature to stay close by, and my other two, while fine off-leash, aren’t particularly friendly to new dogs. And it is in those differences that I’m reminded of my (human) children.
While the Schreier trio are unmistakably siblings, they also have 3 very distinct personalities. As a parent, I have relatively similar methods and standards in parenting all three, and yet…
- I have one child who devours fruits, veggies, and tries new food regularly. And, another who eats exactly 10 things. I’m just grateful the list includes baby carrots and strawberries.
- I have one child who can sit patiently and well-behaved through just about anything (no electronic devices needed!). And, another who barely makes it through 10 minutes in church without completely losing it.
- I have one child who interacts with family with warmth and enthusiasm. And another who’s “act pleasant” face barely moves past surly.
- I have one child who shares anything and everything with ease. And another who would rather donate all possessions than have a sibling get a turn with it.
- I have one child who has never gotten a note sent home from school/daycare about behavior. And, another who has just about filled one of my kitchen drawers…
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. The more children you have, the easier it is to realize just how much of it (good and bad) is them, not you. Granted, all three of my children have huge hearts and even wider imaginations, which I like to think I may have had some hand in….but, then again, they are also all bold, fearless, try-anything-once, risk-takers, which is most definitely not a characteristic I’ve instilled in them. As you may recall, my 5 year old finally convinced me to pierce my ears at the tender age of 32…
My new theory is, when it comes to children (and dogs), you get what you get. Our job as parents is not to check boxes off some pre-set list of ideals, but rather to meet our children where they are, strengths and weaknesses combined, and help guide them into the most amazing version of themselves possible.
That might include frequent compliments from strangers, or, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, I can tell you that all four of my dogs have been wonderful family companions who bring a lot of joy to my life. And my children are shaping up in much the same way 😉