When I was around 12 years old, my sisters and I decided, against my mother’s wise counsel, that we should buy ourselves a beagle puppy.
He was an adorable pup with big, sad eyes and silky, floppy ears. In our sheltered homeschool ignorance, we girls decided to name our beagle Todd – after the dog on the Disney Movie “Fox and the Hound” – not remembering from the one time we watched the movie that Todd is actually the fox and not the hound.
Name confusion aside, he was an adorable, mischievous little guy, who grew up to be a grand nuisance. This dog, though small, made his constant presence known with his ominous hunting howl and the fact that he ALWAYS was under your feet, literally. Especially when you were in the kitchen trying to grab a quick bite to eat. You’d turn around and nearly biff it on the kitchen floor because, low-and-behold, Todd was right there behind you.
Sometimes I feel like this about my kids. [Sorry for the comparison; I know my kids are much more valuable than dogs.]
Frequently I get this flashback when I trip over a toddler in kitchen that I have Todd back in my house. Except now I have three puppies. And, like Todd, they follow me EVERYWHERE and whine to have their needs met.
As a young homeschool mom, that constant presence of my children touching me, talking to me and needing me has been a huge adjustment. Tripping over my little puppies is rattling!
I’ll be honest; it bothered me a lot at first and still sometimes. Accomplishing anything with a troop of puppies at your feet isn’t easy and lends itself towards some frustration and, yes, some outright barking anger.
Initially, I was resistant to the “force” that holds my children to my feet.
I would encourage my oldest two children to head out to the fenced back yard for some play time, and they’d stand at the sliding door with their little noses squished against the glass.
I’d set up a coloring project for them, and they’d leave it within a few seconds to stand by me in the kitchen. Cars would be covering the living room floor for some racing fun, and my boys would be messing with the vacuum as I’m trying clean crumbs off the couch.
Sometimes I feel like being that snotty kid on the playground and telling my kids, “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!”
But then I think about animal moms (Weird? Maybe.) – a duck mom, lioness mommy, or dog mom and her little herd of rambunctious offspring. There’s something keeping those ducklings, cubs and puppies from straying far from their mommy when they’re little…
My children have that same magnetic force that holds them to their mommy; I think it’s called a bond. And instead of fighting it like I want to on some days, I’m trying to learn to embrace that precious force that keeps them near. To use it to my advantage as their God ordained teacher.
It’s hardest to embrace that force on the days when I’m trying to go somewhere or accomplish some task. If getting something done is at the forefront of my mind, then, yes, I bark and growl at my babies. They’re in the way and make things hard to get done!
But God has been gently teaching me that my tasks aren’t what need to be done in a day; training my children is the only goal that really matters. If I can slow down and move through each activity with the heart of a teacher and teaching my kids as my primary goal for each day and each activity, the frustration and the barking subsides.
Here’s what this looks like for me: If my kids end up in the kitchen sniffing around at my feet, I can sit them at the counter, have them watch me cook and help tear the lettuce leaves for the salad.
They can learn as that bond pulls them into the kitchen with me.
If they follow me to where I’m weeding in the yard, I can teach them how to pull weeds. If they want to be with me when I clean, I can hand them a dusting rag. If we go to the store together, the goal is no longer getting groceries – the goal is teaching my kids self-control and respect for others.
Respecting my kids as little people who need me, my attention and my instruction can keep me from howling my orders to the kids in frustration as we take a good 45 minutes to dress for our 30 minute excursion.
Slowing down to teach my little brood requires budgeting more time for everything. But I honestly only have two choices – make time to slow down and meet the needs of my babies or continue plowing forward, barking all day and hearing my puppies yelp and seeing them emotionally shut down and cower in fear.
Todd’s mom probably had her pups tumbling over her all day long too, and she likely had to move slower to get from place to place because her rascally little crew didn’t follow any orderly fashion. She probably got bumped and knocked around and even tripped over her puppies on occasion like I do my babies.
However, making my children the priority changes everything for me in how to their constant presence and needs. If their emotional and spiritual needs are the number one objective for my day, I then can allow myself the time to snuggle in with my puppies and make the most of this beautiful and demanding season of training my children.