Mom & Dad: Teach Kids to Exist in the World Without You (A Valuable Lesson Learned From Parenting Dogs) by Terri Jones
Yesterday at the dog park, I watched as the dogs sniffed, rolled and chased each other, slobbering and panting blissfully. All the while, my girl, Daisy, huddled on the bench beside me, and Archie sniffed a few butts but essentially spurned the other dogs’ advances, flattening his ears and tucking his tail. I encouraged the two of them to run around, chase a ball and play with the other dogs, but instead, they hung on the edges of the crowd, observing rather than participating.
In that moment, I knew exactly how my mother had felt 50 plus years before. When she’d take me to the playground or park, I’d stick to her like glue or find a quiet corner to play by myself. If any of the children tried to join me in the sandbox or on the slide, or heaven forbid, talk to me, I’d rush to the safety of my mother’s side.
The first day of kindergarten, I felt anxious in this unfamiliar environment and terrified of the room full of strangers. I came home and tearfully told Mommy that the teacher had refused to let me go to the bathroom, which, in reality, was probably just the teacher refusing to let me hide out in the restroom all day.
“Please don’t make me go back,” I begged my mother. She didn’t, because in the '60s kindergarten was optional.
Sure, I had friends and went to social events throughout my school years, but it wasn’t until college that I really came “out of my shell.”
While watching my dog’s inability to socialize yesterday and realizing that it was probably my fault for not giving them more opportunities to do so, it occurred to me that my mother had done the same with me. As I stayed home almost 24/7 with my puppies for the past year and a half (I’m a freelancer), my mother had quit work when she became pregnant and essentially had become my only playmate for the first five years of my life.
This insular existence had resulted in a kid and two dogs who didn’t really know how to play or be around their peers. "Mommy and Me" time is important, but while we’re forging a bond with our kids (both pet and human), we need to make sure they’re also forging bonds with others, and most importantly, know how to exist in the world without us.
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