Today, while I was walking my dog, I saw a sticker on the rear window of a vehicle in my neighborhood. It said, "Wag more, bark less." I was amused. I have been working hard at focusing on the love and the positive, and here is a new way to say it. Indeed, I was in the mood to wag, following the experiences of the day before.
Flash back to yesterday morning, when my friend with whom we were going skiing called with a weather report and questioned whether or not we were concerned. There was a big snow advisory in the mountains, and possibly even some accumulation briefly called for down here in the lowlands--but hey, we had snow tires, the kids were all psyched to go, and we could caravan, so after the usual delays, we set off.
It was beautiful, really. The snow fell steadily and increasingly all day, ending with huge flakes and near white out conditions, even near the bottom of the mountain. Everyone was having a great time, good naturedly complaining at lunch time about how much of a work out we were getting with all the snow making it harder to ski and snowboard. We broke up into our groups again: 5 teen boys, 2 middle aged women, and 1 middle aged man with new boots and skis to break in. We agreed to meet back at the lodge between 3:30 and 3:45. So when 4 teen-aged boys returned at 4:15, we were already a little primed with concern.
A flurry of activity ensued in the growing darkness: interrogate said teens, contact ski patrol, scour the bottom of the slopes as each skiier approached, check the vehicles and leave a note, sweep the lodge for signs of the missing teen, support and console increasingly worried and upset mother, re-interrogate teens, go back to ski patrol, one more sweep of the lodge and "He's here! He's OK!" "OhmyGodyou'reokthankGodnowgofindyourmother!"
There was barking. Barking about being late, barking about the boys splitting up. However, after hearing their story from several angles, I have concluded that there really is no one to blame. It is understandable how it happened, and the main thing (wag, wag) is that this young man did find his way down the mountain, even after becoming lost. His friends were properly chagrined, abashed, and relieved. And this morning, when I awoke ready to bark about a different matter, I chose to listen first, and wagged instead.
I know there are many times as parents when we give into the urge to bark. And there are times when barking is well-deserved. There are times when we need to build a fence around our kids; times when they need to be on a retractable leash; times when they need to go run with their pack and fight for top dog; times when they need to be reprimanded for their behavior and lose privileges and gain responsibility. And to balance things out, there are times when they figuratively need their ears and tummies rubbed, to have the ball thrown for them, to be taken on walks, to be cuddled with, and to hear what they are doing right with oodles of love in our voices. They need to know we are wagging with delight in them.
There is a saying I heard when I was a Parent Education Instructor. (I've tried, and cannot locate the source). Trying to correct your child's behavior by yelling is like trying to steer your car by honking the horn. Often true, in my experience. Often, if I am honest, yelling or barking is usually a way for me to vent my own anger or fear. I haven't yet met a parent who doesn't do this from time to time, myself included. If we do not overindulge in it, it can keep us real by helping us learn about ourselves. And overindulgence, or the lack of boundaries and limits, can be as damaging as too much yelling (another topic for another day). So, for now, instead of trying to be perfect, I have decided for this week, anyway, to embrace the philosophy of the window sticker: Wag more, bark less. Care to meet me at the park?