I am learning how to be a grandmother.
By way of a dog named Rosie.
She is the puppy of my son.
Who doesn’t do things (the dog or the son) the way I would.
My instincts are to blurt out several times a day: “Are you ever going to get this dog some professional training?”
Only, I repeat: She is not my dog.
Neither will it be my kid one day.
Mine is not to issue edicts.
Mine is to find the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to keep my mouth shut more often than not.
Saintly restraint, in other words, aka Grandma.
And yet let’s just start by saying I don’t enjoy being around undisciplined dogs or children, while my millennial son revels in the concept of the free spirit.
Let’s just say that I know now with unfortunate and daily reality checks that breeders don’t call Rosie a “springer” spaniel for nothing. My son, meanwhile, says Rosie is expressing friendly joie de vivre when she jumps on people in greeting.
Let’s also just say I may not be a pet person — which, I will quickly assure my animal-rights friends, does not mean I do not love the elk, the buffalo, the coyote, the deer, the sloth and the cow.
It’s just that pets think I am their mother.
And I already raised three (human) toddlers.
Given this, I decided after our last dog’s demise five years ago (RIP, Toby) there would be no more animals under my roof.
Grandchildren, one day, yes, please.
Cats, dogs and fish, no.
Then came COVID and Chris offering to leave his life in Washington, D.C., to help during the pandemic.
I knew he’d be leaving a vibrant social life and work atmosphere to move back into his boyhood bedroom in our bucolic little college town in the Midwest.
And so when he suggested he get a dog to fill in the gaps, I caved, albeit with mutually agreed-upon caveats: No dogs bigger than 40 pounds. No overly energetic breeds that jump on people. No dogs on furniture. The dog should be professionally trained.
So far we are 0 for 0.
One year out, we have a highly energetic, 45-pound dog who jumps on people in greeting, who Chris doesn’t have time to have professionally trained, who is allowed on my son’s bed, which means she thinks she can get on mine.
A bed is a bed is a bed to a toddler/dog.
And therein presents the challenge. And the opportunity.
How my son ultimately raises his dog (child) is his to decide. This is a point of fact I am realizing with increasing clarity and some small measure of pain. That is, unless it encroaches on my feng shui. And then we are talking about the fine art of boundary-setting, to wit, he can allow his baby to eat peanut butter out of the jar with his fingers. But I get to say “Not in my living room.” He can let his dog jump on people in greeting. But I get to say “Not on me or my friends.”
This isn’t always easy, me having one set of rules and Chris having another which is why it’s good that he recently got his own place.
Out of sight, I love (them both) more.
Out of sight, I gain perspective and a few minutes to gird myself before I see Rosie.
I text Chris from my car: “Hold Rosie. I’m coming in.”
He knows to hold her back until I get in the house and situated. I walk in the door without fear of being knocked over.
Everybody wins, including Chris, who maybe, just maybe, begins to see the value in solid training techniques and how much more controlled his life could feel.
Let’s call it what it is.
When all is said and done, we mama/grandmamas will still always think our way is best, saintly restraint or no.
KRT MUG SLUGGED: HOOK KRT PHOTOGRAPH VIA THE STATE (October 1) Debra-Lynn B. Hook (smd) 2004
Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at www.debralynnhook.com; email her at [email protected], or join her column’s Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.