Thursday, February 22, 2018

Save The Molds For Jell-O And Cake. Please.

A friend of mine posted a video on Facebook a few weeks ago. I'm not usually one to watch lengthy videos, but this one caught my attention. It was about a young boy who is passionate about ballet. In the first portion of the video, the boys' father is walking him into ballet class. The video proceeds to give an outline from the boy's decision to take ballet to how often he's picked on because of his choice to dance. Towards the end of the video, I was reaching for my 34th Kleenex.

I'm not a Mom to human kids. Neither is Lisa. We're the proud Moms of 4 rescue pups and a rescue Guinea pig. As with any rescue animal, you never know the entirety of the nightmare they suffered prior to rescue.

During the time between being rescued and adoption, you have a roundabout idea of their demeanor, any type of food and toy aggression, if they'd do well with other animals, if they're suitable to reside with kids, etc. However, none of that is revealed in its entirety immediately after rescue. It usually happens months, and in tiny steps, after they've been adopted.

All of our kids have idiosyncrasies stemming from their life prior to joining our family. Coco loves to tug on someone's pant leg or shoe. Sophie, after 7 p.m., will growl at her siblings if they invade her space. Lobo barks at pretty much everything right down to a bird farting. And, he likes to pee on anything that's hanging on the floor like a hoodie on the kitchen chair or blanket hanging off the sofa. Willa likes to convert blankets into something that resembles Swiss cheese.

That's just the beginning of it. 

What does any of this have to do with a young boy who is passionate about ballet?

Aside from the boy's courage and radiant confidence, what stood out in the video was the father taking the young boy to dance classes.

Of course, being a writer, after watching the video, I sat back in my chair and my brain wandered a bit and flirted with various scenarios.

Did the father have brothers who picked on their nephew because he took ballet lessons?

How often did the father have to deal with ridicule from others like friends and co-workers?

During big holiday dinners, did the topic of this boy's passion for ballet dancing come up? If so, did other family members encourage him to gravitate more towards "boy stuff?"

As a Dog Mom, this hit home with me.

Over the years, we've had friends and family members criticize our decisions and interject with their apparent disapproval. That has surfaced in many forms.

It all started with Coco. When we adopted him, he was a year old. We were told his skin condition was due to a chicken allergy. That wasn't exactly the case.

In short, his health was declining quickly. He had already been adopted out twice. Both times, he was returned. At that point, the facility knew he wouldn't be adopted. They stopped forking out money for medical issues. That's when we stepped in.

No, it wasn't an allergy to chicken. Coco had a severe case of Giardia. Sarcoptic Mange and mites. A bacterial infection in both ears. He was underweight. And, because he spent the first year of his life in a crate, in a basement, there was a whole other slew of issues.

Almost 6 years later, he's doing incredibly well. 

Sophie, due to the crap she had to endure prior to being rescued, is terrified of loud noises, especially thunderstorms and fireworks. During the warm weather months, if there's a storm in the forecast, one of us is always home. And, we hunker down the weekend before and after the Fourth of July.

Lobo, oh, where do I begin. His physical mobility is greatly limited because he only has one hind leg. His other hind leg suffered an injury prior to rescue that went untreated. He can't go up or down a set of stairs. The ramp we made for him so he could get up on the sofa without assistance was a fail. His single hind leg isn't strong enough to endure the incline. Lobo also barks at everything. If we have company, he'll eventually settle down, but if it gets loud or voices are shrilly, he'll bark.

The youngest of our kids, Willa, is a Jack Russell. She requires at least 128 games of fetch per day. She's a bundle of energy. If I don't cater to her fetch addiction immediately, she gives me a look. Then, she storms off shaking her wiggly butt. I've translated that to, "Mom, I'm gonna f*ck something up."

I've learned to surrender to her fetch addiction. Even if that means playing fetch with her while I'm sitting on the toilet. 

Throughout all of this, and over the years, we've had to dodge our fair share of critics. Some have been friends. Family. Or, people we've met along the way.

A family member who we had made plans with during the week we adopted Coco, had no qualms about giving us a piece of their mind. That included letting us know "he's just a dog" and we should have delayed the adoption. This was after I let them know how severe his situation was.

When we adopted Sophie, a few friends and family said, "Okay. Two dogs are fine. That's it though."

After Lobo joined our family, well, it was a field day for the critics.

By the time we adopted Willa, we had severed ties and distanced ourselves from most of "the critics."

You get the gist of it. 

Amid all of it, there have been countless moments when people have judged our kids. They've curled their lips. Made snarky comments whether direct or nonchalant. And, it wasn't just about the size of our family.

It was about our kids individually. For example, a woman that I had once admired and regarded as an idol could barely take the time to have her photo taken with Lobo. When he wouldn't stop barking, she handed him back to us with a look of utter disgust on her face. As if she was handing us a human baby who'd just had a bout of explosive diarrhea. A snooty comment followed.

We've had a handful of people look down on our kids because they're not as well trained as theirs. This was after demonstrating that their furry kids could ring a bell and roll over on command for a treat.

And, of course, there are the few who feel that bringing their pup kids to a well known and prestige daycare a few times a week makes their furry kids, well...better than ours?

Um. No.

There was a time when I thought Coco should fit in and conform to "dog standards." It took us one try at a doggy daycare to realize that wasn't going to happen. And, that was okay.

Shortly after, I read Robin Bennett's article 'My Dog Got Kicked Out Of Daycare Today', that changed my entire perspective. Since then, and as our family has grown, I've allowed our kids to just be. Between the love and acceptance they've received from Lisa and me, the people within our tribe, and the trust they've established, they're doing phenomenally well. They've flourished.

There is nothing wrong with our kids. They're healthy. Happy. Vibrant. Playful. Loving. Affectionate. Thriving. They don't need to ring a bell on command or have a certificate to validate any of that.

To the Moms of human kids. The same holds true for you.

As of late, I've been a little impetuous about expressing my disdain for what I have experienced over the past decade with tutoring teens and young adults. The frustrations have accumulated year after year after year. The reasons for that are too lengthy to list.

Like with anything in my life, I do my best to establish and maintain a sense of balance.

It wasn't until yesterday that I realized I had veered off track a bit. I had been focusing too much on what had gone wrong over the past decade in certain fields of my work. I wasn't acknowledging what had actually gone right. What I had learned. What had inspired me.

I own it. 

At some point, I got a little lost. I allowed the frustrations of it all to take center stage. I failed to realize that despite the many differences between Dog Moms and Moms of human kids, there is a shred of common ground.

One of those shreds is the struggle of wanting your kids, whether human or furry, to fit in, be accepted, but on the flip side, being okay with them not fitting in.

It's also about dealing with the critics whether they're friends, family, co-workers, teachers, etc. One of the most crushing moments in my Dog Mom Life, was when the woman I had wanted to meet for a long time, my idol, held out Lobo with disgust and irritation and commented how we should get his barking under control.

I seriously wanted to run to our vehicle, close the door, and cry. It had nothing to do with Lobo disappointing me. It had everything to do with the judgment. This person didn't know Lobo. They didn't know his history and how far he had come in the last 6 months.

When I watched the video of the young boy who spoke courageously about how much he loved ballet and witnessing the Dad taking him to the dance studio, I speculated. Was it easy for the Dad to do that? Was it easy for the Dad to brag about his son's accomplishments? Did he have to dodge the scrutinizing comments from those around him?

With all of that being said...

To the Moms of furry kids and human kids...

If your kid, whether human or those with paws, doesn't fit in, that's okay.

Your human kid doesn't need to play sports, get all A's in school, have a gigantic circle of friends, be interested in fashion, or embrace and be accepted into the popular cliques.

Your furry pup kids don't need a certificate or attend the popular doggy daycares to be deemed acceptable or rehabilitated.

Neither human or furry kids need to be in the spotlight or sit with the elite.

They don't need to fit a specific mold.

Molds are great...for stuff like Jello and cake. That's about it.

When I was a kid, I found solace in books, art, writing, extending random acts of kindness, and inspiring others.

That's what I wanted to dedicate my life to. Unfortunately, my parents brainwashed me into thinking that a college degree was the only way to make my life count. To make money. To matter. To reach the benchmarks in my life.

It took me many years to realize that wasn't the case.

I spent most of my life trying to impress my parents and the masses.

I have several degrees. None of which I utilize today.

It wasn't until I was in my early 30's that I embarked on the same journey I'm on now.

Doing what I am passionate about. Doing what I want to to do.

More so, doing all of it and not giving a shit what others think.

Do I care what others think about Coco's obsession with dirty socks? Lobo's incessant need to bark at the sound of a squirrel munching on seeds? At Sophie's curled lip at 7 p.m. when she doesn't want to be disturbed? At Willa's decorative touch to our blankets and comforters?


Should you care if your human kid isn't making the honor roll? Has no interest in fitting in? Isn't dating by a certain age? Not playing sports? Doesn't give a shit about extracurricular activities? Should it bother you if your son loves ballet? Or your daughter wants to be on the wrestling team?


As Moms, as parents, we need to shed the need for other people's approval. We need to stop giving a shit what other people think.

No one knows our kids better than Lisa and myself.

No one knows your human or furry kids better than you.

As someone who has stood on the outside looking in many, many times, I am confident enough in my own skin to admit that I've learned a lot from quite a few youngins. There is one particular young adult that reminds me so much of myself when I was her age.

On the other end of the stick, sometimes the view from the outside looking in is jaded. I grew up in a different time period. When I went to school, cursive was taught in elementary school. We had home economics with teachers who taught us how to make pie crust, cream puffs, and decorative pillows. Math was simple.

Now, not so much.

At the end of the day, we need to take a moment. Exhale. Pull back a bit from the shit storm our world has become.

Our kids are our kids whether they have hands or paws.

As Moms, we're doing the best we can. We don't need the experts intervening with their generic bits o' advice.

Y'all know how I feel about the term "experts"? If not, this should shed a little light. 

Our kids will find their place. Their niche. Trust. Exceed. Break out of their shell. Develop their own personality. Grow into their skin.

Just be patient.

And, if you're the boy who wants to love ballet, go for it. If you're the furry kid who feels that the bedroom comforter should look like Swiss cheese, well that's fine too.

It's all good.

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