I believe in raising my children to be respectful by doing, not telling. If I don’t want my guppies to scream or scold or to yank things out of other people’s hands, then I certainly won’t do it to them. It is more important to me that my children learn to identify and express their emotions, especially in a heated moment, than it is to instantly stop the negative action itself. We’re not talking about fire, knives, or clown hands. When there’s no immediate danger, I try to be consistent, fair, and patient.
Granted, I’m no saint; sometimes I reach for the remote or raise my voice, but if a sampling were taken, an average reading on my overall gold-star parenting, the eyedropper would yield a score of Mellow Yellow. Whereas sweet iron-fisted Phil would score an unquestionable Crimson Tide—the man is equal parts vodka and pomegranate juice. My problem with iron-fisted dictatorship parenting styles is this: kids feel shamed and learn to fear. I want no part in that and believe, with all my heart, that children can be disciplined respectfully, patiently, so they won’t behave like angels in the face of authority, then turn demonic in the face of anyone else.
Which brings me to Mr. Bikini. Not our child, not capable of reasoning. The canine can smell cancer but can’t understand “come.” Okay, so he understands the command just fine. He just chooses to blatantly ignore it… especially when it comes from the mouth of anyone other than master Phil.
Mr. Bikini never comes when I call him near. Just forget commanding him to go in his crate. So, with Phil away these past two weeks, I’ve taken to bribery by way of meatballs. Only now our electronic fence has stopped working, and today Mr. Bikini darted off down our hiking trail into the woods. Asshole.
I was wearing shiny Tory Burch flats and was not about to haul my jean-skirt-clad ass through a scratch field of hell branches and slippery rocks just for the dog to not listen to me in the woods. He was already not listening to me from the playscape. So, I used my lungs and grabbed some balls.
“Kini! Kini, come! Special treat!”
My beans joined me, promising our frisky beagle meat sundaes and hand over fist “mama meatballs!” Still nothing. Our nanny, in sneakers and jeans, navigated the trail and searched for our bunghole dog.
As I called after Mr. Bikini from our playground, a meatball in each fist, Lucas came over and hugged my bare leg. “Mama, stay near me. I don’t want you to go missing, too.”
“Of course, of course. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. You’re safe with me.”
Norma then returned with Mr. Bikini in tow.
“Kini has bad manners,” Abigail says as we drag him inside.
“Yeah,” Lucas says, “he didn’t take the picnic class from the picnic school. At all!”
“Yes, Lucas, you can eat the meatballs now.”
If our children begin to respond the way our dog does, I’m gonna need to put someone in the doghouse. I’m just not sure if it’ll be me or Phil.