October 2, 2009

Dog and Boy Training

My third son was not like me much. He thrived on constant companionship, where I was definitely a person who relished solitude. He would talk to anybody in the store, where I would usually try to avoid excessive contact. If I would turn the shopping cart down an uninhabited aisle and involve myself in choosing the best jam, he would talk to the cans of corn. His self-confidence was more than I had ever seen in a human being, and trying to follow his train of thought made me to wear a question mark on my face every day. I imagine that he thought that was my normal expression, his clueless Mom!

He was more than ready to start kindergarten, since his brothers had been in school for 3 years, after all! His first day he spent more than his normal 10 seconds in the bathroom and came out with his largest self-satisfied grin. He had his Sunday shirt on with his clip-on tie. His hair was slicked down; I should say it was mashed down, and his belted pants were pulled up high over his tummy exposing his bony ankles below their hem.

I gave him a squeeze as he sat down to breakfast and asked him about his choice of clothes. He leaned over and tactfully informed me that this was how the girls would like him.

How does he come up with this stuff?
I asked myself. Oh, well, it’s his first day. I’m glad he’s enjoying it!

But Seth thought he should wear his tie every day, even trying to attach it to a t-shirt. Fearing that he’d be ridiculed, I suggested that maybe the tie should be for special days only, like Sundays. When I mentioned it might get dirty, he agreed.

It was a precious school year, with just Seth and I enjoying our weekday afternoons together. One day, after handing him his daily cheese sandwich, he went outside to play with our puppy Max. I listened to his interactions with the playful pup for awhile before I realized my son needed some dog training coaching.

I called him into the kitchen and explained, “I hear you saying no to Max a lot, Seth. I don’t think he will learn what that means if you don’t praise him sometimes. Why don’t you try saying no less, and praising him more? Then he can learn what makes you happy with him?”

“OK, Mom!”

Some time later I felt that special mommy sense that tells you it’s time to check on your child, and I found Seth on his knees with his hands folded, muttering something. I put my ear closer to the kitchen window and heard “praise you, praise you, praise you...” Max’s head was cocked sideways, obviously wondering what this new game was.

My head was cocked too, with that 'clueless Mom' look on my face.