May 10, 2012

Timing Is Everything

The dogs have put me through hell, literally, lately.

Two weeks ago they dug out of the fence and spent the whole day LOST.
I spent the whole day pacing at home, yelling my lungs out, slowly driving around looking desperately for them, crying, raging, imagining how mean I was going to be to them if they ever came home, imagining how sad I would be if they didn't come home, imagining having to tell the boys the dogs were gone, and alerting all the neighbors that they were gone, so they could contact me if they saw them.  Since I was driving around anyway I stopped by the police station to let them know, I called the pound to see if they had showed up there.  Nothing. There were a couple of sales with lots of people that I slowly cruised around until I made people nervous wondering what the heck I was doing.  Not a sign of them anywhere.

It was just exactly the same as when the older kids were not home when they were supposed to be.  It was exactly the same as it will be when the twins are not home when they are supposed to be.  This is still in the future, although it is coming at me very fast.

You think that you would 'know' if your child was in a ditch, slowly bleeding to death, and you are pretty sure that they are just out, having fun and physically fine, but let's face it, until someone actually lays in a ditch and slowly bleeds to death, you cannot be absolutely certain.  So you worry.

With dogs, you worry that they will be shot for chasing cows, or digging in someone's garden.  You worry that they will run through a field and come down on something that will impale their chest.  You worry that they will step on a broken bottle in a creek.  You worry that they will get hit along the highway.  Mostly you worry that they will meet some other nice people and just stay and you will wonder what happened to them, hoping it wasn't something horrible, till the day you die.  All this time, they are probably just running through timber and splashing in ponds and laying in the sun sleeping, enjoying the day while your hair is turning white and the gas tank creeps toward empty and you tell yourself that you cannot afford to drive around all day and that they are probably home now and you are missing them because you are not there!!  Throw a few hot flashes in there and it's enough to drive you crazy, or at least make you wish you were crazy and above such mundane worries.

After all this, they show up at the back door in time for supper, looking like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths.

Again, it is exactly the same as with a child.  You are furiously relieved and angry all at once, followed immediately by weak-kneed gratefulness that they are all right, followed by the stern talking to and the punishment which you fervently hope works because let's face it: their lives depend on it.

The dogs have been tied up since then unless we are home and while Jack is more mellow and takes his medicine basically like a man, Shadow should maybe have been named Houdini.  They are so proud when they get out, it's like they have performed some incredibly wonderful trick.  They positively exude joy.  If something runs from them they seem to feel 10 feet tall and bullet proof.  Anything that doesn't run and shows the slightest bit of resistance scares them. They are chasers-not killers. They truly know not what they do.  If only we were still in that same blissful state of ignorance.

I don't want to say girls are smarter here, because I do not truly believe that, but Shadow is able to not only slip a collar off her neck but also an admittedly uncomfortable harness. Like Houdini, I suspect she can dislocate her shoulders at will. Unfortunately, Shadow was not adopted by a family of spies or a circus where this kind of thing would appreciated, and this is Shadow's burden to bear.  We all have at least one.

This morning they did it again.  Jack even did it in his harness, not being one to expend energy uselessly.  By the time we found them they had apparently been through a pond and killed a neighbor's cat. Said neighbor decided the best course of action would be to inform two 14 year old boys in no uncertain terms that  if he saw the dogs again, he would be beating them with a golf club, one of which he conveniently had with him to wave around.   This, when reported to me, prompted at least one of my sons to respond in a way that would not have my personal first, second, or third choice.  Where was I?  I was 50 feet up the street in my driveway.  This is not, thank God, a neighbor who lives close to us.

By the time the boys and dogs get back to the house to tell me this, the boys are practically in tears and huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf.  It is at this moment in my day 7:27 am.  I have two dogs which I love but am in the mood to kill inside my house, two very upset 14 year old boys which I love but cannot protect from the ugliness of the world, and a neighbor that I would love to kill but have to set an example and therefore show love and understanding for. And it is only Thursday.  Annnnd we still all have to get to school and work on time.  These are the facts of my life at this moment.

Shiver me timbers.

Welcome to my world!!  Take a seat and buckle up, ladies and gentleman!  It's gonna be one hellovaday!!
I wisely decided not to complain; after all, I could have chosen to be an alcoholic instead of raising kids but that was not the choice I made.  There is no changing horses in the middle of this stream, we are just going to have to ride the rapids and hope for the best.  Besides, everyone else had already lost their cool, and somebody had to act like an adult even if they didn't feel like it.  By default this duty had fallen to me.

God was with me.

Of course he was!

I put the dogs in the garage with a little water, a couple of bones, a long lecture and some fervent hope that Shadow's multiple capabilities would be stymied by a locked doorknob, at least until I could get home at noon.  I had a little cartoon fantasy about her clicking out a claw shaped like a key, kind of like a dog version of Inspector Gadget.  Then I came back to earth and distantly wished for the days when cartoons were always on because I had small children.  I miss those days.  Then I sucked it up and charged back into the fray.

I told the boys that I was sure the neighbors loved their cat and I felt absolutely terrible about it.
This worked, as they know what it is to lose a cat.  It hasn't been that long since our own died, and that cooled down the killing rage that only teenage hormones can summon up.

Then I told them that whatever had been said, on both sides, had been said in the heat of the moment, and we all let our tempers get away from us sometimes.  Nobody is perfect.  The one rule that never changes.

Then, since this person works at the same place where they have to spend all day, I told them that if they saw this person there, and had to speak, that they should keep their faces neutral, their voices respectful, and sincerely give their condolences to the cat owner, and then walk away.  The walking away part was key, and I stressed it, because this is not an adult that I respect or even trust around children, for reasons entirely older and completely separate from this  particular incident.  But I cannot control the world, which is another rule that never changes.

As we drove to school, it occurred to me that as unpleasant as this day already was, the timing of it was eerily perfect.  In a year these boys will be driving, and going places without me, out of my control.  It will be up to them, then. This morning they had experienced exactly how I would feel if they did what the dogs had done, and they knew it.

I told the boys that now they understood what it was like to be a parent, who only wanted their child to mind for their own good, so that they could be safe in the world and know how to behave when their parents could not be with them.  We talked about how badly it can hurt to have to punish the ones you love, but that you had to do it for the child's own good.  It is really the only responsible thing to do when you are a  parent, because otherwise you really are leaving them at risk out in the world.  We agreed that we would buy some wire to make the fence electric, even though it would hurt the dogs to learn that lesson.  We talked about how smart the dogs were and how it wouldn't have to hurt them too many times before those very smart dogs would figure it out and we would not have to worry about that, at least, anymore.  Jack and Shadow will have even better lives if they learn to mind the rules and have respect for other people's property.  Whatever we have to do to get that lesson through their heads is what we are committed to doing, because sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.  I may have given away the secret that parents are mostly faking it till they make it anyway.  I figured if they were old enough to learn everything else this morning had brought to us, might as well go the entire distance.  Many lessons are lost when not followed through to the end.

Then I went to work where I would sit, upset by this whole thing all day long, faking a nice voice to answer the phone with and praying that adults would be able to be adults and children would be able to be children.  I did not get within 10 feet of wishing anything about dogs and cats, let me tell you.  Humans are quite enough to handle in my opinion, thankyouverrrrymuch.

Truth is, the world can be a terrible place where you can get hit upside the head with a golf club at any given moment when you think you are just out having fun.  Truth is, getting hit upside the head with a golf club is not by far the worst thing that could ever happen to you, either.  This is just a fact of life and the sooner we all learn it, the better off we all will be.  I always try to teach my kids to deal with reality instead of clinging to unrealistic illusions.  I do not have a lot of faith in unrealistic illusions, I have never been in the business of raising fools, and I guarantee you that hard reality will always show up sooner or later.

They seemed to really understand.  They were pretty disillusioned with both the world and adult responsibility this morning, which, I had a sinking feeling, was the most I could possibly have hoped for.

Isn't that sad?  Remember the slowly dawning feeling that you got the first time it dawned on you that being grown up may not be the big shiny gaudily wrapped present that you always thought it would be? That moment when, for the first time childhood seemed safer than what was coming toward you and that second thought that maybe you should go back, except for a nagging certainty that you would never really be able to go back there again?  Not really?  That happened this morning for my boys.  It is sad, but it brought a greater understanding that could pay off big dividends in the not so distant future.  Could being the operative word.  Depending upon the choices we are all yet to make.

And that, my friends, is life.  At least it's our life, right now, and we are doing the absolute best that we can. 

 Forgive our trespasses as we forgive others who trespass against us.

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These are my thoughts, which sometimes drive me crazy and sometimes keep me sane, but are always entertaining. I call this Lace Your Days With Hope because I can't find enough hope to make an entire quilt out of. Stay tuned, and add your own!