The big news around our house this Mother’s Day is that it’s been a week now that Buddy Too our Miniature Schnauzer puppy has been sleeping in his crate. When I first brought him home I attempted having him sleep alone but it lasted about five minutes. His crying started and because I wanted my own sleep I caved in and he was in bed with me.
At first he insisted on sleeping right next to my neck. He was small and the weather was cold so I didn’t mind. We kept each other warm. When he got too big for that I managed to convince him that sleeping on his pillow at the foot of the bed was a good deal. The time finally came where this just wasn’t working for me. I don’t sleep well to begin with so a fidgety puppy is not what I need. If I’d managed to get my boys sleeping in their cribs at night I felt certain I could get Buddy to do the same.
True to my personality I had a plan for how I would handle his protests. I would let him cry for 30 minutes and then go soothe him and do that several times stretching out the time between calming him and putting him back in his crate. I’d confidently show him who is in charge. (Yeah right!)
With all my false alpha-male-bravado I put B2 in his crate at lights out and crawled into my own bed waiting for him to start crying. I didn’t care how long the night was going to be. If I had to drink a lot of coffee the next day to get by I would. With all that determination coursing through my veins I don’t know how I fell asleep but I did. About an hour later I was woken up by a noise that I assumed must be Buddy. Not wanting to wake my actual children I crept outside my bedroom door and quietly surveyed the house only to find that all was calm. The only thing that could be heard was the ticking of the clock.
I went back to bed thinking I must be dreaming and luckily fell back to sleep only to have my alarm wake me up in the morning. I was stunned and ran downstairs to check on the pooch and found that all was well. B2 was a bundle of well rested puppy enthusiasm squirming with joy at my return. We went outside for him to do his thing and I stood there in amazement. How could it have been so easy? It must have been a fluke. I thought surely it won’t last but I’m happy to report he’s slept in his crate every night since then. Life is good with B2 and I couldn’t be happier.
The irony of the story is that just a day before starting the crate thing I’d purchased Cesar Millan’s book, “How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond”. I’d seen Millan’s award-winning television show and he seemed to know what he was talking about. The book chronicles him raising four puppies one of which is a Miniature Schnauzer so I thought it must be worth reading. Surely the man knows more than me.
So why am I laughing about my dog’s sleeping habits and the so-called Dog Whisperer’s book? Because success was achieved before I’d even cracked open the book. I hadn’t had a minute to read even one page when B2 slept through the night on his own. Success had come without input from a team of experts, in spite of my best plans, and whatever the book might have to say. That cracks me up!
I’ve been a mother now for over 16 years and it’s been a wild ride. Not a single one of the “what-to-expect” type books I bought prepared me for the reality of parenting and I read a lot of those books. In fact I’d read every book I could get my hands on and I’ve read a lot more books since then. If I’d found a book called, “How to Raise the Perfect Child: Through Infancy and Beyond” I would have bought it and taken note of every important point.
I haven’t found that book though and on Mother’s Day 2010 I have to chuckle at myself because if there is one thing I have learned about raising children it’s that you can’t always do it by the book. Oh how I wish that were not true because if it was we’d have a lot of perfect children out there. All the parents who read would find the best books, follow their advice, and their parenting challenges would be tackled effectively and efficiently.
The problem is that every book has a bias and every child has their unique DNA and you can’t change a person’s DNA. With every parenting book on the shelf the writer is convinced that based on their experience or research this is the way you do it. They have a vision and they want to help you get to their desired future for your children.
Therein lays the rub. It’s the author’s desired future for your children and not necessarily yours. Certainly there are some hopes and dreams the majority of parents share regarding their children as well as best practices with parenting. Common sense goes a long way too. However, no two children are alike and there are some things about your children you are likely never to change. This is why allowing someone else’s vision to take the place of your own can work against you more than it can for you. It creates a scenario where you are constantly comparing your children to a standard they may never be able to measure up to which can lead to a great deal of angst for you and your child.
Looking back over the years as a parent I can think of a number of times I found myself beating my head up against the wall in frustration based on some idea I’d embraced that came from a book. One of those I distinctly remember had to do with eating fruits and vegetables. You see I love fruits and vegetables and I’d bought into the idea that my kids had to eat them. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get either of my boys to take more than one bite of even some of the most popular of fruits and vegetables. How can anyone refuse a delicious strawberry?
After months with no success I turned to the “experts” and started reading a number of books about healthy eating habits for kids. Armed with lots of great strategies I kept pursuing the well balanced diet for my boys. Nothing worked. Frustrated beyond belief I even allowed a hunger strike to set in and guess who won? The boys did because not many mothers have the fortitude to watch their kids go beyond three days without any food. It’s easy to buy into the belief that given a limited number of options a child will begin to eat what’s put in front of them out of hunger when you’ve never lived through a hunger strike.
Looking back, because I now understand more about my boys and their personalities I get it. They were both born hypersensitive to sights, sounds, and smells so it’s not just simply a matter of preference with food. If the mere smell of a banana makes you queasy it’s awfully hard to eat one. Because it’s not always possible to de-sensitize someone to something you just have to realize that at some point it’s time to move on. Bananas don’t come near our table and in the whole scheme of things it’s not really a big deal.
You see one of the advantages to having two autistic kids who don’t fall into the perfect child role is that it’s simpler to clarify what your priorities are. For me what it comes down to as a Mom is that I want my boys to be Godly and capable. Would I like them to eat a well-balanced diet? Yes. Would I like them to have a variety of interests and activities that make them well-rounded? Yes. Would I like them to achieve some sort of career success in their life? Yes. Will I be disappointed if these things don’t happen? I hope not because they really aren’t the main thing for me. My greatest hope for my boys is that they will grow-up to be Godly men who are capable of taking care of themselves. All the rest is likely to fall in place one way or another.
Looking beyond this Mother’s Day I do hope the dog stays in his crate because I need as much sleep as possible! I also hope that someday the boys move out of the house. I’ll miss them terribly but then I can put a bowl of fruit on the table and laugh at all the time and energy I spent trying to change them to no avail. Maybe then I will have enough confidence to throw out all the books and just enjoy the story we’ve written together.