Diary of a Dog-Tired Wife

We brought Maddock home on December 6. He’s our new family member. I loved him the minute I realized I could: The minute we learned he would in fact be the one to come home with us. He is a Scottish Deerhound. He is about 33 pounds and his head reaches a few inches above my kneecap. He has a handsome face, expressive eyes, and he’s black and grey. Mostly grey. With some red highlights, or brindling. (His coloring is a lot like that on my own head, if I miss an appointment at the hair salon.)

He’s adorable. Even after he threw up in the car in the second hour of our two-hour drive home. (He’d been in a car for a total of perhaps 45 minutes prior to that, and under far less stressful conditions.)

He’s charming. Even after we learned he had giardiasis and needed a strong course of medication that would not only prompt more diarrhea but also make him throw up.

He’s a sweetheart. Even after he’s tried to eat whatever has come out of him, at whatever end.

I share these details because I sincerely had doubts as to whether I could handle these aspects of puppyhood. The gross, smelly, baffling and infuriating aspects of rearing an animal who, for whatever reason, you have chosen to love.

There were moments in that first week or so he was here (when I was alone with him, working from home, while my husband was at work at his office, or in Mexico for work, and the kids were at school, when I was taking him to the vet and dealing with all manner of messes) where I thought: “What the hell am I doing? I am not qualified. I don’t have the stomach for this. I don’t have the time for this. How do I get out of this?”

But they were only moments. Panic passes. And then, you just do what you have to do. More accurately: You do what you chose to do.

I’m tougher than I thought. This morning, as I chased our dog around the yard, imploring him to drop the piece of frozen poo he had found as was happily munching, my husband, working from home, came out to see how I was doing.

“Our dog is eating his own shit,” I shared, as I stopped our dog and gently held his mouth open so that he might drop the offending feces.

Now, I was running around in my pajamas and parka, glasses fogging up, my hair tied in a knot on my head, parka flailing about and boots loose around my ankles, picking up poo and cleaning our dog. I was gloriously unkempt and mildly unsanitary.

And my husband was looking at me with… Respect and admiration.

I can’t explain this, really, but I don’t really recall him looking at me like that after being home all day with our children at their youngest and neediest. I think it’s hard to express respect and admiration when you just know the person can do something. My husband has known forever that I am a 100% competent mother. He’s never batted an eye at the way I raise the kids, the way I care for them and handle problems. I think perhaps he knows that raising kids is something I always wanted to do.

Raising a puppy–he didn’t know for sure. I didn’t know for sure. I mean, about 13 years ago we were dog sitting for my friends’ two dogs and I couldn’t even pick up after the dogs. I begged my husband to do it. It was all so icky.

But after the past two weeks and two days, I know. And my husband knows. And Maddock knows. Maddock looks for me when I am not in the room. He walks (or trots) to me when he’s nervous. He relaxes if I stroke his head. He submits to me and my baby wipes on his face and feet after his romps through a hidden pile of poo. He nuzzles, and murmurs. He demonstrates warmth to me. To all of us. We’re his new family. Pack.

My husband asked me last night if I liked having a dog.

I nodded yes. “I think he loves me. Do dogs love? Okay, maybe he just needs me. I still like it.”

My husband said, “He loves you. You’ll see: You’ll never find a more loyal friend.”

I hope he’s right. Maddock is stuck with us, after all..

 

 

“One is silver, the other is gold…”

Last week, as I sat there on the couch, restless and mildly irritated at my restlessness, my husband suggested a brilliant idea.

“Why don’t you ask R and E out to dinner or drinks or something?”

R and E are my new neighbor friends. Their kids play with our kids. We’ve volunteered at a school event together. We’ve walked to the frozen yogurt shop together. We’re getting to know each other–but it has always been kid-centric.

I spent about a half hour composing a text message. Yes. A half hour.

I call myself a writer, and I am in fact a very fast, very quick and decisive writer about issues that don’t affect my social life. This text message took a lot out of me. I had to be breezy, noncommittal, friendly, funny, all of that. In a text. Yes, I really did have to be all of that. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t just ask in person. You know very well nobody sets up social engagements in person anymore.)

“Hi there you two. Wondering if you’d want to have a “moms’ night out” (drinks/dinner whatever) when [our respective husbands] can all be home with respective kids? Not sure when this could happen given our schedules, but I figured I’d throw it out there. Would be cool too for the six of us to head out at some point for dinner, if you’re all game. I just reconnected with a sitter I last hired in June–miracle!”

I tapped “send” and put my phone under a couch cushion.

“I sent it.” My husband looked up from his laptop and said, “Good.”

“Now I have to wait.” This time he didn’t look up. “Yep.”

Within 15 minutes though, I heard two comforting “dings.”

“They said yes!” This time he laughed and looked up. “Of course they did.”

The three of us went out last night. We are all very different from one another, but we had some good laughs and made plans to go see a movie in a couple weeks.

It was all very familiar. About six and a half years ago I had the same angst in trying to connect with my new neighbors on a friend-let’s hang out-level. There was never any need for angst, ultimately, but I had it.

I do not change or learn from past experience when it comes to meeting new people. On the outside it may look like it’s all very easy, but on the inside? I am terribly insecure until I find my footing with people.

It helped that these two new friends seemed as hungry to go out and socialize as I was. Being a parent of elementary and preschool age children will do that to you.

I’m excited to get to know them better.

I’m also beyond excited that my two dear friends–the friends I made nearly seven years ago in our last hometown–are coming tomorrow for a weekend visit. I have this idea that we’ll go out here and there and eat and drink and be merry… but with these two we could just sit in my living room talking for 48 hours and we’d be perfectly fine. It’s so extraordinary to have friends like that.

Not sure what I did to earn them. Or these women: Talked the other night with a dear friend of mine from grad school. And the week before that, I talked with a newer friend from our last hometown. Knowing I was nervous about hosting Thanksgiving for 15 in our new home this year, (including my sister, sister-in-law and mother, all beyond-excellent cooks), she sent me a fabulous book on Thanksgiving. And a few weeks before that with I chatted with a friend I made during the 2008 presidential campaign–laughing ourselves to tears. And my new friend in town, made through a mutual friend I made two hometowns ago: in a few weeks I get to go out with her friends and see a musical. I’ve been to more restaurants than my husband thanks to her (and he goes out for work a lot!).

Not sure why I’m so insecure about making (and keeping) friends. I’m rather good at it.

Maybe it’s because I learned this song at a young age. Thanks, Girl Scouts.

“Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.
A circle is round,
it has no end.
That’s how long,
I will be your friend…”

on self-defense

My husband takes the kids to karate class twice a week. Early on in the class, perhaps the second time they went, our daughter, M, asked the Grand Master, “When can I learn to hurt people?”

Yikes.

She asked because in school, students often feel they have the right to pick her up. As in, put their arms around her and lift her off the ground and then say, “You’re so little!” like she’s a doll or pet.

Or inconsequential.

It makes her angry, and she’s learning how to express that feeling effectively. We went to a birthday party at the zoo last month, and several boys were holding her arms and pulling her along. She was smiling and saying “Stop!” But the kids didn’t stop. I made eye contact with her and she didn’t ask me for help, but laughed and said, “They won’t stop!” I asked my husband, “Does she need help? I honestly can’t tell. I want those kids to let her go, but are they playing?”

My husband walked over and with a playful tone, with a smile on his face, grabbed her in a bear hug and said, “I have her now!” And the boys dropped her arms instantly. So instantly, that I believe those boys knew what they were doing wasn’t okay. (If they had held on and continued the game, with my husband and daughter, it would have been clear to me that she was playing, too.)

Later at home, we talked about it. Our daughter was telling us that she was trying her release moves on the boys–the moves she had learned in karate–but it didn’t work when there were so many boys.

I asked her, “Did you really want them to stop or were you playing a game–were you playing ‘prisoner’ or something?” (They play this, and roles go back and forth between captor and prisoner–our kids play this all the time.)

“I wanted them to stop! They weren’t listening, though.”

I furrowed my brow: “But you were laughing when I saw you. I couldn’t tell that you really wanted them to stop. I looked at you and you didn’t ask me for help.”

“Well I didn’t want to not be friendly.”

My husband and I both said almost in unison, “You don’t have to be friendly if you want somebody to stop.” I elaborated, making my “Mom is unhappy” face. “There — make that face if you don’t like something. Look angry when you say ‘stop.’ That is always okay.”

“Yeah, and maybe I can ask the Grand Master what to do if you have three people attacking you.”

***

Two days ago, M said to me of her and her friend L: “We kind of wish we weren’t so nice. I don’t mean to sound like a big shot, but there are these girls who want to be friends and we don’t really like them, and we play with them and include them, but we wish we could just say “No, we don’t want to play.”

Given that information, I said, “Well, sometimes we spend time with the people we didn’t choose ourselves. It happens. It’s a good idea to be nice in these situations.”

Yesterday, she came home and told me about one of these girls, E. E likes to confirm with our daughter that they’re “best friends, right?” E sometimes pinches our daughter’s cheek, rather hard, for no apparent reason. I asked M what she did when E pinched her cheek. “I told her it hurt, but she did it to another girl too and that girl said ‘ow’ too but E just didn’t care.”

Then our daughter described how she was playing with her hair and making crazy pony tails on top of her head. She and her good friend L, who was sick that day, often do this. E, however, decided to tell our daughter, “Stop doing that. Take those out. You look ugly!” Our daughter said, “I don’t appreciate you saying that.” (??? Really?) And E said, “What? I’m just being honest.”

(Uh, is it just me, or is E a sociopath*?)

In reacting to this story, I probably did the worst thing a mother could do:

“Well, I will say that I do not like E. She seems to not understand what being honest is. She doesn’t seem to care about how she makes you feel.”

I told our daughter that the next time E made her feel badly by being “honest” or whatever, to respond with a “Whatever, E,” while shrugging her shoulders.

It’s no karate release move, but it’s the only thing I could think of that was age appropriate.

Today, E made up a song about our daughter, singing, “she’s so stupid, she’s so ugly.” (Again: SOCIOPATH.*)

Our daughter said, “Whatever, E.” E did something to L, our daughter’s good friend, too. L also said, “Whatever, E.”

“She got the message, Mom.” (And I am thrilled.)

E learns how to behave from somebody. I cannot wait to meet her mother.

Our girl is only in the fourth grade. I hope it’s not too late to teach her what I did this week: You don’t have to be nice. There is great power in expressing your discomfort or displeasure or complete disdain. A look. A shrug… A well-timed “Whatever.”

As long as she doesn’t use these moves on me…

*a friend has pointed out that E might instead be a psychopath. Calling her a sociopath is an insult to Sherlock, as played by Benedict Cumberpatch.