Alpha Dog

You know that saying, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans”? Well I’m refining a theory that parenting is what happens while you’re trying to keep your kid alive, well-fed, clean, out the door before you’re late for work, and asleep in bed before a major meltdown.

Not that my kid is anything other than an angel and a perfect little gentleman all the time, but lately I’ve been doing some introspection on what I externalize and how it gets reflected back on me. It may come as a shock that I can be easily frustrated, anxious, and indecisive. (Or, if you know me, know of me, or have ever just been in proximity to me, it probably doesn’t. At all.) I’m finding that when those are the emotions I show, it’s not that the kiddo acts the same as me, although sometimes he does. It’s that whatever parental credibility I have is greatly diminished, sometimes to the point of going right out the window.

Once, we had a dog with behavioral issues and I’ve found that there are some parallels between dog ownership and parenting. (Side note: Kids and dogs have similarities. To a point. Don’t be one of those people with no kids who thinks you’re down in the trenches with me because your dogs or cats are “your kids”. Not the same.) With the pup who was a little too, let’s call it “bite-y”, we worked with several different trainers and behaviorists. The key, they all seemed to agree, was to always broadcast to the dog that you are calm, capable, and in command. Which, honestly, is pretty good career advice too. That way, the dog looks to you for emotional direction and sees you as a calming influence when they are under stress.

My own experience, talks with my wife, and advice from the greatest child development experts I can afford (and by that, I mean a series of thorough Google searches) lead me to believe that the same can be said for the interactions between me and my son. He’s just north of two and a half and, frankly, nothing makes sense to him. The world is big and getting bigger, fast and getting faster, and he suddenly has so many choices to make. He looks to me and he looks to his mom to see how he should react and when he sees us as short-tempered, or anxious, or indecisive, or caving to his every whim, part of his brain goes, “Well, these bozos can’t help me, so I’m just going to be surly, or stubborn, or indecisive and see if that works.

So, me being me, I guess thus begins what will be among the greatest challenges of my young parental life. Exerting a sense of calm competency which, let me be clear, I rarely feel. Keeping it under wraps, being cool, calm, and collected. Employing every skill I’ve learned about being confident, measured, and decisive.

I hope I have it in me.

…..err, I mean…   I can do this.

Better Angels

If you would, please patronize me for just a moment and read the final paragraphs of Lincoln’s first inaugural address given on this day, March 4th, 155 years ago.

Abe says, “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

And, though I don’t think the situation is as far out on the precipice as it was in early 1861, I think we could all make use of our better angels right now, don’t you?