Thursday, September 29, 2011

Puppy lessons,part 4: chaos

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” - Col. 3:21

I came within an inch this week of taking Maisy to the local animal shelter, giving her a hearty pat on the head and saying goodbye forever! I was angry. Not once, not twice, but three times she chewed some wiring underneath my SUV in the garage and messed up the ABS brake system on the vehicle. Over the years, I’ve visited with many parents that were ready to drop off their kid somewhere. Anywhere. It’s easy to get frustrated, but perseverance and patience are always rewarded. Loving deeply means loving for the long haul.

Child abuse is a horrible thing and should not be tolerated. In my pre-parent world, I thought it unbelievable that a parent could physically and emotionally lash out at a defenseless child. But later, having been up late with our sick kids one night, I do remember thinking, “I can see how a parent with a few loose screws could lose it.” When exhaustion, frustration, lack of teamwork and self-centeredness rule the day in my life, most life issues become chaos.

That’s why compassion and patience are such huge factors in parenting, marriage and life. When I am focused on me and getting my needs met first, anything that isn't meeting that need is an annoyance. Chaos is relative to what it’s being measured against.

Because the truth is, Maisy is a puppy that I’m trying to treat like a dog. What I call chaos is just fine with her. My O.C.D. world wants the backyard spotless and tidy. Her puppy dog world adores chewing things. It’s in her genetic makeup to chew. As a vet explains, “A dog's mouth is the canine equivalent of our hands; it's what dogs use to pick up and examine things, evaluate their potential use, and transport them from one place to another. Chewing lets a dog know what something feels like, how it tastes, and whether it's good to eat. It's a natural part of dog behavior: You can no more train a dog to stop chewing completely than you can train him to stop breathing. Chewing is also an important part of the pup's development. Just like babies, puppies chew in part to soothe sore gums during teething. It can take up to a year for a pup's adult teeth to come in, so this is another instance where you'll need lots of patience to teach your dog what he can chew and what he can't.”

Wow. Chewing is a part of the natural maturing of a puppy. Pups have to chew. So to leave our pup in the same garage with a mostly rubber car is a set up for disaster. Is it Maisy’s fault or mine? Hum. In truth, I was the one who set her up to chew the wiring.

Now, I’m sure not excusing a lack of responsibility in dogs or kids, but I am appealing to us as parents to be careful before we overreact and threaten to sell our kids to the lowest bidder. We need to remember that kids are kids. They’re going to make dumb decisions sometimes. That’s part of growing up. Take a deep breath and remember that sometimes they’ll learn more from your grace than from your grump.

Hang in there and pass on a little of what our loving God gives to us so freely: grace. Pray for a heart of patience and compassion.

And keep your dog out of the garage.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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