the other evening we were having a picnic dinner at the beach on the hood canal. when we finished i took a glass of wine to the sand to relish in the fact that there was a sweet breeze, crashing waves, and i was no longer boiling to death.
down the beach a bit there was a woman with two humongous golden retrievers. are there any other kind? the bigger and darker of the two would wait for the woman to throw the stick and then would bound into the waves in unabashed glee. swimming out, grabbing the stick, and swimming back in. then right before he got to the shore the lighter and "smaller" of the two would wade in and grab the stick and run up to the woman with the stick, drop it, and then jump all around and accept all the praise for retrieval.
meanwhile the bigger of the two dogs would shake and shake and then stand ready to retrieve the stick once again.
i watched this go on for some time and i wondered what the dynamic was here? what was the relationship that had one dog so happy to do all the legwork, and one dog happy to take all the credit? didn't the bigger dog resent the smaller dog for this? did the smaller dog have some issue that prevented him from going in the water? and the woman just kept it up, throwing the stick for the bigger dog, praising the smaller dog for retrieving the stick.
the thing is, the bigger dog looked so happy, the way that dogs always seem to manage to do. just bounding in those waves, waiting for the other dog to get the praise so the stick would once again get thrown. and the smaller dog looked so pleased, dancing on the beach with the stick. soaking up the love. and the woman sure looked happy.
i don't know much about dogs, but i do know enough about relationships to know that any relationship we are not part of is always very different from "our" vantage point. that the people (or dogs) in the relationship are having their own thing. and unless you are in that relationship how could you ever know what is really going on?
it seemed to work for them. this dynamic. this relationship.
then the boybarians and the husband joined me on the beach. and amidst all the watching of the dogs and the small talk the duke started in with yet another thrilling baseball anecdote (insert sarcastic eye rolling here). okay, can i say i love that my boys are so very fanatically interested in something? but to regale me with tales from the 1976 world series games or whatever the ancient baseball topic du jour is is just becoming a. bit. much.
besides escaping the dreariness of the pacific northwest in favor of hanging out with a beer and a hot dog for a game or two under the arizona sun during spring training, or my own kids' games, i am not so much interested in the baseball. i am certainly not interested in ancient history baseball. good lord i can only handle so much.
but the duke takes this stuff seriously. and he does love to tell a story. and he loves to think that everyone is interested in what he has to say. wow, i wonder where he gets that.
so this evening the duke starts in on his story of some ball park's "disco night" that took place some time in the 80s. i think. i don't really know the particulars because the minute he started i turned to the husband and gave him the "i. can't. listen. to. this. please make this not my responsibility. please be so interested that he won't notice that i don't care and am not listening. please take this one for the team."
i had to because kids love nothing more than to be listened to. and they know when we aren't engaged. and that sucks for them. and i couldn't just ignore him or get up and walk away. but i couldn't actually take another baseball story either.
so the husband did. and because we were both sitting there, and because the husband was so engaged, at the end the duke was pleased to have shared something with both of us that he was so interested in. and pleased that we both seemed to be interested, too. even though i wasn't listening and in fact was deep in thought about something completely different. probably along the lines of i wonder why it is we never got into watching all the great shows on HBO and showtime? we'd probably love them. i know we would. and yet we never think about it. or, thinking about something covered in cheese. my deep thoughts often times don't run too deep.
and i realized we were the golden retrievers. the husband was the bigger one. diving in the waves getting the stick, passing it off to me. and i didn't have to do anything but wait to be included in pleasing the duke. even though i didn't do a thing.
and that's parenting in a nutshell. picking up the slack, asking for the slack to be picked up. working together. cohesive. it doesn't have to be 100% 50/50 all the time. it just has to mesh.
there are days i can't get my shit together (i know, shocking) and days the husband can't. there are times i get the accolades for an idea that wasn't mine, and days when i get the blame for a decision i didn't make. parenting is just about making the leap no matter the hurdle. and parenting isn't just one hurdle, but a succession of them. so it's best to be consistent and just go with the rhythm that naturally gets established. whether it's praise or blame, in the end it's just about making the leap.
i'd also highly recommend practicing your "of course i'm listening because this is so riveting please tell me more!" face. it also comes in handy at parties while you plan your escape and on really bad dates.
and in the spirit of those happy dogs in the waves with the stick, i dedicate this post to the memory of melissa's bean dog. bean, you were a kick ass dog, much beloved by all who knew you, and you will be sorely missed. be blessed.