Sunday, September 5, 2010

Puppy Love

The kids ask the question all the time "when can we get a dog".

Early readers of my blog will remember my Democracy in Action post where we had a family vote on the subject.  Some may even remember Jackson's post as a guest on my blog where he wrote about that.

Our answer to the kids frequent questions is always  "when you're more responsible."

That usually ends the discussion. Sometimes there is a feeble "we'll be more responsible".  Occasionally they may press us for what year we might think it would happen.  But usually, they don't press it.

But on our vacation, we spent a week in a house with a dog and a puppy is definitely on the radar screen. Even Husband and I have to admit we are both near ready.  We used to have discussions like this:

Me: We should get a dog some day.
Him: Yeah. Some day.

Now we have discussions like this:

Me: "Can you put grass down beside the deck where the patio pavers are?"
Him: "Why?"
Me: "So we can train the dog to go there so I will not have to pick up dog poo with a bag and it won't be all over the yard."
Him: I don't know if that will work.
Me: It has too.

I have spent the last 4 years living in a neighbourhood with almost as many dogs as children.  I am not ready to be one of those people carrying around bags of poo.

I do not know why I think the dog would be trainable. By us.  The one clear and uncategorical parental failing Husband and I have is the ability to potty train our children. They were both four by the time we accomplished the task.  We single-handedly funded the Pampers pension fund for the 26 months we had TWO kids in diapers.  What makes me think training a dog would be any easier?

I have a few other conditions under which I am willing to acquire a dog.

It must be a female.  Non-shedding. Small to medium sized dog, but not one of those little ones that fit in a Kleenex box. Oh and I want to pick the name.

I started getting a little push back from Husband on that last one. And Jackson.   Sydney will agree to any of my unreasonable demands just so she can have a puppy in her life.

You see I want to name the dog Austen (after Jane Austen).  Or Marcia (Brady Bunch). Or Barclay (because I have always thought that a very cool dog name).  Or possibly one of our leftover unused baby names (now that I am of questionable fertility status and if we had more babies now, we might not be able to pick them up or live to see their high school graduation):  Parker, Spencer, Riley.

Jackson says "it should have a dog name, not a people name."  A dog name is Barky (as opposed to Barclay). Or Spot.

In the past few weeks, a possible dog has come up in conversation. Here's an example:

Me: Time for bed. Can you guys head upstairs?
Them: What??????????????
Me: It's 9 o'clock.
Them: We just wanna finish this/ watch the end of this show/ do one more thing/ check this out.
Me: DO YOU GUYS EVER WANT TO GET A DOG????

Usually I get grudging compliance.  One could argue I have gone to this well a little too often.

Last week at 10:30 p.m. Jackson came into our room.  I was staying with my Mom that night as it was the night after my Dad's surgery.

"Daddy, there are some things I need to talk to you about."

And so ensued a 30 minute conversation about what exactly "being more responsible" looked like.  Jackson wanted specifics.  A couple days later, after Husband had briefed me on the conversation, Jackson brought me into the loop. Husband overheard Jackson lecturing Sydney on "being more responsible".

A day later, Jackson called a family meeting.   Husband and I (okay, usually it's not Husband) call family meetings occasionally. They are usually single-purposed: like figuring out what we can do on a rainy Saturday so they don't drive us mental planning a fun family outing. We try to make it a positive thing so family meetings are not all about ranting and venting discipline and correction.  But occasionally we do point a few things out about their behaviour.

Anyway, this was the first ever kid-initiated family meeting.  Jackson took the floor:

"I've already had a meeting with Daddy. Another meeeting with Mommy. And I had a meeting with Sydney. But it's time for a family meeting". 

I should point out that he had notes. And graphics.  He was feverishly pacing in the living room.

"What I want to talk to you about is Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and The Master Plan."

I raised my hand.  He has not actually told us what the meeting was about, not that it was hard to guess, with all the pre-meetings.  "Are these your plans about how you are going to do your homework in grade 4?"

"That is part of it!!" Jackson replied excitedly.  "Actually that is Plan A."

So he went on to describe how we could come up with a schedule to do homework. Once he actually had homework.  It was more of a  plan-to-make-a-plan then an actually plan.

"On the first day we have homework, we will all sit down and find the best time.  It won't be permanent because we have to see if the plan works."

The J Boy repeated himself about 17 times and wore down the treads in the carpet before his mercifully moved onto Plan B. Cleaning.

"We all have to come up with our own schedule.  For example, I plan to clean my room every 3 days. If that doesn't work, I'll clean it every 2 days."

"I'd be happy if you cleaned it every week."  This, Husband will tell you, is the pot calling the kettle black. My side of our room is generally the most untidy spot in the house.

Jackson went on to tell us that the rest of us have to commit to cleaning up our own spaces and he will record our commitments.

Plan C has several subjects, Jackson told us.

"Subject 1: Snacks -- Sydney should start getting her own snacks. But that might mean we have to move some of the food and the bowls so she can reach it."

I put up my hand.  "What about your snacks?"

"I already get my own snacks."

This must be in a parallel universe because when Jackson gets hungry one of the following things generally happen:

a) he gets cranky.
b) he gets REALLY cranky.
c) he tells us he is hungry.
d) he tells us he is hungry and demands to know why we are witholding food from him and didn't we know he is starving to death and he very much doubts that he can even walk to the kitchen table at this point because he is so weak from hunger.
e) all of the above.

I wisely did not use the family meeting to challenge his assertion about the snacks.  Jackson moved to Subject 2.

"Clearing the table. Sydney and I will clear our dishes after we eat.  Maybe sometime we will learn to put our dishes into the dishwasher instead of onto the counter. Also, I already know how to turn on the dishwasher, so I can do that. Only you might have to remind me how to turn on the dishwasher because I forget."

I made a feeble comment that "Good Behaviour" might also be one of the subjects -- as we have been encouraging one of our progeny to be less intense. And the other one to be less pouty. I'll let you figure out which one is which. Or you could just read on.

Jackson finally moved onto The Master Plan. Where this is all pulled together. He had a chart with two columns. Column one would be checked when we all agreed on what the plan would be.  Column two would be when the plan is completed.  When all the Column 2 are checked, we will get a dog.

Then suddenly Jackson was trying to get me to agree to something about The Master Plan. I didn't know what he was saying, and I was afraid he was trying to get me to commit to getting a dog at a certain time.  He kept pressing me in the dog-with-a-bone fashin (if you'll pardon the pun) so I said "I don't know what you're asking, but we are not getting a dog tomorrow."

I will concede that I might have and should found a gentler way to put that. 

He ran off in a cloud of intensity without formally adjourning the family meeting.

But don't think we're allowed to forget about The Master Plan.

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