Friday, February 18, 2011

Old Dog New Tricks

"Do not use verbal commands for sit," the obedience instructor said. "Eventually, we want to use only hand signals."

Wow, I must have missed something over the years. When we trained our puppy, it was push butt down and say sit. Repeat. I was an old dog discovering new tricks.

I grew up with a yardstick and spankings as a child. Oh, the message got through to me; however, I'm not sure what crime I could possibly have committed that would justify raising a hand to me, but I learned from those actions. I learned anger from supposedly loving hands intentionally hurting me. I learned that spanking was humiliating. I never remembered the crime I had committed but did remember the anger my parents took out on me.

When I raised my children, I, too, spanked. Not proud of it. I had not learned to control my anger and my own issues. I did not learn to embrace my child in their time of need and to give them understanding from their perceptions at that age. I did not learn to love myself and always walked a fine line between anger and self-doubt. I had little to draw from, except for Dr. Spock. Who had time to read!

I don't think I was so different from many parents who were lonely, lost in this thing of child raising and facing difficulties in their lives. I moved away from my core support when I was just pregnant with my daughter. We moved to an area that didn't embrace outsiders easily. Winters made us hermits with snow up to the deck. My husband was promoted and loving his job. Back then wives were not included in company activities. I sat at home with babies. Then infidelity sneaked in when I wasn't looking. No, I had little to draw on.

My divorce was a pivotal time in my life and that of my children. My view of myself and my childhood began to improve. I became a woman of positive attitude and determination. I threw out what I had known, what little I had known, about child rearing. I decided at that moment to have a wonderful life of laughter and fun. My time with my children would be one of discovery and understanding. I realized my children needed something different from me. Did I still make mistakes? Oh, yes. Do I still? Sure enough. But the patterns of the past had changed.

Now as a grandma, I embrace the challenges. If I am to be of any use to anyone, including myself, I need to pick up the pace. I need to learn the signs without the yelling of commands. The gentleness of a whisper in the ear of puppy Millie works wonders. The hand on my grandchild's arm (the silent hand signal) and a soft, caring voice have replaced the yardstick and anger. Compassion has replaced exasperation. Not only for the child. No, for the grandma as well.

Is it too late to teach an old dog new tricks? Woof.

1 comment:

  1. You speak well with a story of thousands of women who came to grips with a lousy deal in a male oriented disciplinary society. Isn't it an irony that while women are the care fivers and nurturers, they were taught to be counter intuitive and create a child rearing world that is really against nature. Glad you found the path,