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  • Writer's pictureMeg Tanner

Exceptions to the Rules

Exceptions to the Rules

Seeing that my entire career has involved working with children in some capacity, I figured out early on that it made sense for me to be totally transparent about not having children of my own. Along with that disclosure, I always acknowledge that parenting is the most difficult job on the planet, and there is no way for me to fully understand the challenges that come with it. I often use the quote in my academic support workshops for parents, “it’s not as easy as I’m making it sound, but it’s not always as hard as you may be making it.” While I suspect some internal eyerolls may happen, most of my parents are gracious about this issue and remain open to the tools and strategies I share with them and their children as part of my academic coaching business.

Some of my family haven’t always been as gracious about my ideas related to children. I remember hearing more than a few times from my mom and my sister, “you will never understand until you have kids of your own.” I remember always feeling a bit defensive and even hurt. I’m not sure my internal eyerolls didn’t become external at times. I felt like they were being dismissive not to mention insensitive to the truth that I always wanted children……five to be exact….but God had other plans. When people ask me if I have children, I sometimes respond, “well, I don’t have any biological kids but I have many adopted and spiritual children after years of being a therapist, youth minister, teacher, aunt, neighbor and academic coach.”

Well, it wouldn’t be long before I better understood their assertion. About ten years ago, a very expected but life changing event occurred in my life when a dog was dropped into lap. Let’s just say that becoming a dog parent changed my life in ways I could never imagine and turned me into the crazy dog lover whom I often secretly judged. Also, my mom surprised me when she went out of her way to show real love for my dog as if she knew that this was the closest her baby girl would ever come to having a baby. Having a dog also made me come to terms with other judgements I had made like judging parents of my students when I was a special education teacher serving high school boys who had been labeled as having behavior disorders. This came into focus one day when I was in Pet Smart buying a harness and the salesperson told me I should consider enrolling my WireFox Terrier in classes for behavior issues. I was deeply offended and began making excuses for my boy.

Well, I lost dear Charlie a year and a half ago and was blessed enough to adopt a second perfect dog two weeks ago. I decided I would try to do a better job with training Annie Oakley and not creating bad habits, so I have been reading more and consulting with friends and families for their expert dog advice. I gave up on crating Charlie because he would bloody his nose trying to escape. This time I told myself I would do better. I came back home on the third day of crating to see that Oakley had escaped. I went searching online for ways to better secure the crate and read an article that said if your dog was trying that hard to escape from the crate that there must be something else going on because the typical dog would wouldn’t want to escape their crate which should be their safe place. I had other dog owners swear up and down that dogs will learn to love their crate. I began to think…..did I buy the wrong crate, did I not make it comfortable enough, why does my girl want so badly to escape, what am I doing wrong……and then…..

I laughed out loud. What kind of advice is that. What kind of dog would rather be behind bars on a hard surface than sitting on a soft couch…apparently not mine. I thought to myself this is probably how parents feel when they hear some of the parenting advice. In theory it sounds good but in real life it can be a bit laughable. Whether it’s a fur baby or a real baby, those entrusted to our care have issues that can’t always be solved in three easy steps. Sometimes the answers are complex and sometimes it’s as easy as finding an extra lock to secure a crate and to accept your dog isn’t going to ever love the crate, so breathe through it and/or work towards teaching her to behave outside of it.

Rules, strategies, tips, tools and research are all wonderful, but we must also accept the reality that there will always be exceptions to the rules, and we just have to pray and feel our way through which ones apply to our babies.

P.S. Since writing this I decided to climb inside of the dog crate to better relate to Oakley’s experience. Let’s just say I didn’t want to stay. :)

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