Saturday, November 14, 2009

The one about my dog

What's that? You didn't know I had a dog? Well that is because I actually do not.

What I do have is a medium-sized creature who runs around on all fours and pants and barks and yips with excitement and howls when upset and eats food out of a bowl on the floor.

Unfortunately that creature is my four-year-old daughter. Several long months ago she decided that she wanted to be a dog. At first I went along with it because why not? Pretend play, the imagination at work, what a creative child!

As she does with everything, Anna took this business very seriously and her commitment to her new game was complete. She carefully studied how dogs position their legs when they lay down and the way their ears move. She didn't want to act like a dog, she wanted to BE a dog and she repeated this distinction to anyone who would listen.


Behold my pride and joy BEING a dog at... wait, where was this photo taken again? Oh, heh heh, right, ummm, at SCHOOL. Yeah, I waited for weeks for the lynch mob of parents to show up at my door after she had like a whole pack of them going.

So this commitment I mention, this focus, this clear intention to BE a dog includes my child actually barking. BARKING. Loud, sudden, eardrum-rupturing barks. The canine version of the atmosphere-disrupting shrieks that used to cause strangers to crane their necks to see what I must be doing to the poor child to make her sound like that.

The barks were startling my 90-year-old grandmother so severely that we had to put a doggie ban in place when Grandma Edie is around. I'm seriously considering moving that woman in with us.

Because it's not only the elderly that can't handle Anna the dog. I can't handle Anna the dog. And let me be clear, Anna's love of and connection to animals is one of the many things I adore about my oldest child. It warms my heart to see it in action.

But I can't get through an hour of any day without encountering the dog behavior. Meal time, bath time, grocery store, swim class - it is nonstop. She was a Border Collie for Halloween and she obsessed over the details of the costume with such intensity that I had to wonder if it was completely healthy.

The truth is that I don't believe the dog behavior is unhealthy, at least not yet. And I feel guilty saying it - though I've long ago accepted that guilt just comes with the territory of having children - but more than anything the behavior is annoying. I'm just tired of her putting her hands down on dirty public floors and getting food in her hair because she's eating with her face in her bowl. And I'm completely over the noise.

I feel bad when I have to tell her to stop playing because it's making me insane. But I have done it. It is hard to balance fostering my child's creativity with maintaining my own mental health. I suppose that is one of the most basic struggles of motherhood.

It could be worse. She could have a drum set.

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