Nature, nurture, neurosis

By Mir
August 11, 2009

Allow me to take a break from the maddening aspects of this entire Dog Debacle (case in point: Guess who walked right into the live trap outside my window this morning, helped himself to the grilled chicken I’d baited it with, and then RAN OUT as it snapped shut!) to note that having completely screwed up with what was supposed to be our newest family member during the first week of school has proven unexpectedly difficult for me.

I mean, it’s difficult, anyway. But here I am—having completely failed to care for what is supposed to be a fairly low-maintenance creature—also trying to appropriately tend to my children as they navigate new territory. It is nerve-wracking. For ME. Not for THEM. They’re FINE. More than fine; both of them are delighted to be back in school (although why they would choose that over scrubbing the bathroom with a toothbrush and peeling grapes for me, as per our usual summer schedule, I cannot imagine) and by all accounts are doing fine.

But I am supposed to be letting go and I’m having trouble unclenching my fingers.

First we have Chickadee, who is now a Big Bad Middle Schooler. Have I mentioned the steroids? I think I may have mentioned the steroids just a few times, AHEM. I’m pretty sure that Chickie is loving life and loving school, but then again, she is currently on prednisone so everything is very LOUD and EXCITED except when it all turns TRAGIC, all of which tends to rapidly cycle several times a day. YARGH. So other than the fact that she occasionally acts like a cokehead, school seems okay. She loves her teachers and has gotten over the fear of not knowing anyone—both through seeing her old elementary friends and making new ones—and is generally very pleased with everything at the new school.

She recently started moaning about not wanting to play piano anymore, and I find myself stumped. On the one hand, I know that she’s really loved it in the past and I know her teacher believes she has real promise. And I know that the reason she’s griping is because she’s finally being challenged, and in Chickadee-world there is fun and easy and then there is hard and stupid. On the other hand, I don’t want to be that parent who FORCES her kid to stick with an activity she well and truly no longer enjoys.

At this point she has a commitment to continue piano through an event this Fall which I’ve told her she needs to honor, at the very least. And if after that she still wants to stop, she needs to discuss it with her teacher. I’m hoping that this gives us enough time for her to get over her current mental block. But we’ll see. (I love her teacher. He takes no prisoners, man. He told her that the next time they cut a CD—his students make CDs every year—he’s going to make a track of her whining, “I can’t do it, it’s too hard!” HAHAHAHA.)

And then there is Monkey. Sweet little Monkey. Sweet, controlling, oftentimes clueless Monkey. His teachers have been wonderful about keeping me updated via email. It’s clear that they are genuinely fond of him, but that he still presents some challenges in a classroom setting. “He loves to share, whether it’s his turn or not,” said one of the first emails. SHOCKING, I tell you. I had NO IDEA. Later I got, “Monkey is truly a joy! Of course, he sometimes wants to ‘be the teacher,’ but we corrected him and moved on.” I AM ASTONISHED that my child felt the need to tell everyone else what to do. Mmmph.

Monkey has a ways to go, is my point. It’s good that he’s charming, because as I told his team before school started, “Monkey is very intelligent, and he’s also AWARE of this fact. This leads him to believe he needs to correct everyone else to save them from their unfortunate stupidity. He hasn’t quite figured out yet why people are not grateful for this particular brand of helpfulness.” Thankfully the new school seems to really get it, really get HIM, and he’s settling in well.

The issue I’m struggling with for him, right now, is the morning walk to school. I’m perfectly happy to walk with him every day. At the same time, there are kids younger than he is walking or biking alone, and I need to help him build up some independence if I don’t want to have to go to college with him. So the first day, I walked him to his classroom. The second day, I walked right up to the school driveway and then let him go inside alone. He turned back to make sure I was watching about three times. The third day, I cross the corner with him (and the crossing guard), then let him go on alone. He checked back only once, and I thought we were doing really well.

Today I stayed on the near corner and let him be ushered over by the crossing guard, first one street, then the other, and he then proceeded to wave at me for the next five minutes while making the rest of the trek up to the door. I waved back, and tried to smile, as I reminded myself that this is the good kind of letting go, the kind where we’re both a little nervous, and it feels a little uncomfortable, and then we move on to the next level, which is apparently him coming home and answering my “So what did you do at school today?” query with a waving of his hands, a devilish grin, and a response of “Oh, we did stuff! And things! And then some more stuff!”

And—lord willing—I’ll never have to set out a cage filled with hotdogs and bits of chicken to get him there.


  1. Jean


    I’m sending my little guy to K in September and I’m completely freaked out. I hope he does well…he had some maturity issues in pre-k so I’m hoping he adapts to K ok. Basically what i’m saying is that I so hear you on the neurosis issue…I know he’ll be fine, but I wonder if I will be.

    (((HUGS))) and hang in there…ps…hope you find a loving dog soon!

  2. Jen B

    Mir! Regarding “Super/Bolt” … need we remind you of your first post about him:

    “Everything I’ve read says that’s a dog with serious problems, and probably a history of abuse. A tough case. A lot of work…”

    Please stop blaming yourself! He is an adorable dog, but I’m thinking the rescue should’ve worked with him a bit more before offering him for adoption.

    My kids don’t head back to school till September 8th… 4 weeks of summer left for us. My middle child (9 year old girl) has been “bored” for much of this summer (despite the 4 weeks of day camp with crafts & fun & activities & field trips & new friends!!) and has been BEGGING for school to start. But I dread the whines & melt-downs that are sure to start when school starts because of goodness-knows-what! “That’s too hard! I can’t do it!” “So & so doesn’t like me” etc… oh those mini-raging hormones. Please help me!

    Glad it seems like they’re both liking school as of now. Is there another neighbor that can walk with Monkey to school, so you can wave goodbye from the front door?

  3. Jen

    my oldest (8) just passed the test to go to the neighborhood swimming pool by himself. THAT is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Watch him go marching off down the road with his towel and water bottle. To go a whole 1/2 mile to the pool. I’m sure at my age I was biking 20 miles a day and checking in only for dinner. But, the world is very very different today, right?

  4. Sharon

    In my experience, dogs have never been low-maintenace. Sometimes more maintenance than the kids!

  5. Sharon

    In my experience, dogs have never been low-maintenace. Sometimes more maintenance than the kids! Don’t give up, you’ll find the right dog.

  6. Ani

    Second time you’ve made me snarf recently. Unfortunately both times over your maddening dog experience. (Sorry, if you are not, well, YOU, then it is hilarious!) Sounds to me like Super is the spawn of Super Satan.

    My little Monkey shares your Monkey’s issues…esp. the part about offering his unemcumbered wisdom to all, whether they want it or not. Best of luck, we don’t start school for another two weeks, and _I_ am anxious already. He is calm as a cucumber.

  7. Megan

    Well, not to play the one-up game but three weeks ago I got to wave good-bye to not one, but TWO of my children. Real goodbye. As in, moving out of the house and being adults good bye. Which baffles me a bit given that they just started Kindergarten about a year or so ago. And while I’m thrilled for them having this adventure and discovering themselves there is a small part of me that wishes they weren’t quite so darn cheerful about it all!

    Oh, and I’m quite sure I’ve mentioned this, but that male-child-who-must-be-the-teacher thing? My Male Child was so good at it we made him into a super hero: Pedanto! Able to correct perceived inaccuracies without drawing breath! Instant expert on any and all subjects! Catch phrase: “well, ACTUALLY…” Good times.

  8. Marissa

    I’m dreading my 8yr old starting 4th grade in September. Due to a discrepancy in the age cut-off for starting kindergarten in his old district and his new district, he is nearly a fully year younger than his classmates. I have been assured for the last 2 years that he is more than capable intellectually of doing the work, but is lacking a bit in maturity. He could be Pedanto’s side-kick “Loquacious Boy” he has comment to share on each and everything someone else says and is also found of correcting little inaccuracies. (Megan: I laughed so hard when I read your comment, I hear “Well,ACTUALLY…” over 10 times a day!).

    He started football two weeks ago and has been threatened for months that if his school work or behavior slips, even a little, football is over. I think it’s sinking in and he may just turn the “maturity” corner. Yesterday he told my mother that “I have goals for this school year” he wouldn’t share exactly what those goals were, but it’s a start.

    Oh and for extra fun, I’m 38 weeks pregnant with his little sister who will undoubtedly arrive at the most inopportune moment in the next couple of weeks!

  9. mamalang

    I swear my children’s first word was actually. Well maybe not their first, but they were saying it well before they should have been…lol. And, uhm, maybe, sorta, kinda, theygetthatfromme. But really…why do people have to be so stupidly wrong all the time? (really, I don’t point it out anymore. Except in my head. I swear. Mostly)

  10. dad

    Sounds to me like the kids and you all have enough to do without having to deal with a dimentodoodle.
    You know, I bet there is an important life lesson in there someplace.

  11. Aubri

    “Dimentodoodle” HA! :-) That Dad is one funny character!

  12. Kim

    I think it would be hard to let go while the dog-situation is ongoing. Come on, this latest Houdini trick made my fist clench! Loved what you told your team about Monkey.

  13. My Kids Mom

    “Well, actually!” Wow, I wonder if there is a sub-species of young boy who is simply undiscovered. As parents we call them “Pedanto” “Loquacious Boy” and “Mr. Know it All” BUT ACTUALLY, they are superheros placed on our planet to teach us what we don’t know we don’t know. And as parents, we don’t know all lot.

  14. Melissa

    It sounds like the kids are doing great – and so are YOU.

  15. Rachel

    Stupid dog… he doesn’t know what’s good for him.

    Chickadee reminds me of my daughter so much. Mine will be 13 soon, and we’ve been through the piano thing too. She did stop taking lessons a year & a half ago, but still sits down to play once in a while. She was also playing viola, flute & tenor sax, so piano was a bit much. If it were my choice (hahahahahaha) she would have dropped the other 3 (or at least viola & sax (ahem)) & continued with piano.

    Monkey reminds me of my son. The most often heard statement at parent teacher conferences in K, 1, & 2 was “He just seems too comfortable here” (and that wasn’t a good thing). As in, he wants to be the teacher, knows too much (in his mind anyway), talks out of turn, sings loudly while doing his work, etc., etc. I am hoping since his 3rd grade teacher didn’t use that phrase, that he has finally figured it out (if not, his teacher was a saint that wasn’t telling us the whole story). 4th grade starts in 15 days.

    Letting go is the hardest part of parenting, I think. Of couse I’m not an expert (see above, I’ve only been doing this 13 years & only with 2 kids.)

    Your dad is awesome (dimentodoodle, ha!)

  16. Beth

    Wow! My son, Mr. Knows All, Tells All, is not one of a kind?! Cool! I may have to send a link to this post to some friends who think we just need to discipline him a little more sternly…

    Dave Barry did a column once about boys receiving a visit from the Knowledge Fairy when they turn 12. I think maybe the Knowledge Fairy is showing up earlier than she/he used to. Maybe it’s the hormones in the meat?

  17. Beth

    oh Dad…you’re so funny. Dimentodoodle.

    I just realized from reading this post that I am a lot like Monkey. I was always the one who corrected everyone because they needed to know the RIGHT answer. And now I have a little one who does that. I guess I’m getting the whole ‘What goes around, comes around” karma right?

  18. Mit

    I’m so glad you brought up Bolt/Lightening again today. This whole thing has been circulating in my mind, like clothes in the agitation mode in the washer.

    I am OUTRAGED at the “rescue” people for not being MORE DETAILED in the dimentodoole’s behavior. I mean, CLEARLY they must know he does this … for any reason – and warned you/stressed to you how very clever/determined he is.

    The fact THEY inadequately warned you – and you are now feeling guilty/incompetent/upset et al is horrible. I’m sure you are not lacksidasical or careless. 4 years of blog reading proves this. It isn’t you – you didn’t do anything wrong.

    Of course, we all have things in our life like this that we can’t evaluate accurately. *sigh* Changing self-perceptions/images is such hard work. (says she who bumps up against this far too frequently.)

  19. Lady M

    Such big steps!

    I think the normal response to “what did you do at school today?” is “nothing.” And then one has to pry . . .

  20. Gaylin

    I have a 52 year old sister with a Well Actually problem. Well, if you think about it. and on and on
    not so charming after 50 years as her sister.
    Prednisone, poor Chickadee.
    Saw a tv report the other day about Cochineal or Carmine or E120 – totally gross a food colouring that is made from ground dried beetles!!! Apparently it shows up in everything from yogurt to tomato products. Funny how it causes allergic reactions – that get worse every time a reaction happens.
    What next!

  21. Sheila

    Wouldn’t it be great if we had a Rewind button? Not only to get do-overs on mistakes, but to get more time to get used to things before they go and change all over again?

    I’m not good at the letting go thing either. I’d walk my kids all the way up to their classrooms and sit right down beside them if their teachers would let me.

  22. JennyM

    You, sister, have got a lot going on.

    I, too, have a lot going on, which is probably why my eyelid is twitching uncontrollably and there is a veritable mountain of fresh baked goods on my counter. Apparently, I am a Stress Baker.

    Anyway, I know you probably recognize the not being able to let go of the Great Dog Debacle for what it probably is — a symptom of wanting to be able to control *something* ostensibly controllable in the midst of a whole bunch of things you have to more or less just let happen to you right now — but for what it’s worth (i.e., not much): dogs is hard, yo.

    Make like a kitten in a dentist’s office poster and hang in there!

    (Did that help? No? Here’s a margarita.)

  23. Tracy

    That Super is pretty smart, huh? Just hang in there, Mir. I hope this doesn’t ruin it for the next lucky, more appreciative dog. If you want something low maintenance, you should get a cat. Dogs are great companions and I’m positive you’ll find the right one….again, I vote for a puppy. =)

  24. The Other Laura

    Perhaps the dropping back has been too abrupt for Monkey? Why no try going a little bit less of the way with him a week at a time as opposed to a day at a time. That’s what works with my eight year old.

  25. Angela

    PS Dogs are most emphatically not low-maintenance creatures!! :)

  26. Jackie Ashton

    Dogs are MUCH higher maintenance than the kids! Man. I love my dog but he wears me out what with the incessant barking, whining (worse than the 2 year old) and generally making a huge mess.

    I will need a huge bottle of Xanex when my kids go to school. This coming from the mother who ACTUALLY said to her husband: what if the babysitter PLUGS IN the space heater which will of course tip over setting the rug on fire and burn the house down? What if. WHAT IF?

  27. Katie in MA

    Think of it this way: it’s much easier to deal with how hard things are this way than if the kids were whining that they didn’t need you, they could do it themselves, and would you leave them alone already? (Yes, my oldest is only five. In real years. In HER mind, she’s already 16.)

  28. Lucinda

    The piano thing is a tricky one. Perhaps a temporary break with plans to return to it after 3-6 months? When I was her age I wanted to quit piano lessons. After much arguing about it, my mom let me quit. But when I wanted to start up again (about 1 year later), she wouldn’t do it. I have always regretted quitting even though I really needed a break.

  29. Robin

    that dog is cracking me up! he’s like the “roadrunner” and you’re “Wiley E. Coyote”.

    relax. it’ll all be fine. at least you know he’s eating, right?

  30. kathy

    My “singular sensation” (only child) goes off to college at the end of this month. My separation anxiety is already starting! I know how it is dealing w/Prednisone too.My daughter was diagnosed w/a chronic illness two yrs ago and when she experiences a “flare up” doc puts her on steroids.Makes her a bit aggravated. Hang in there,I am.

  31. Half Assed Kitchen

    Great post, Mir.

    And you should see your Google ads. “Puppy Training in 7 Days!”

    If only.

  32. Paula

    ummm…when you find that low maintenance dog hold on tight! Our two are definitely NOT low maintenance but they are most certainly worth the effort! There is the brushing and grooming, the walking, the feeding and filling the water bowl. The trips to the vet when they eat something they shouldn’t or injure themselves or each other while rough housing…and the list goes on and on…

  33. MomCat

    Good Luck, Mir!

    I married a guy who shares Monkey’s desire to impart his infinite wisdom and intelligence upon everyone. He never got over it, but there is hope! He’s a successful lawyer now.

  34. Aimee

    *snort* Dimentodoodle! Your dad rocks.

  35. Janet

    your closing sentence = snort! :)

  36. Nicki

    Sounds par for the course to me!

  37. Burgh Baby

    She who refuses to stop trying to cram herself up my ass, y’know, the dog I can’t pay to go more than ten feet from me, is most certainly not “low-maintenance.” I’m thinking Super has that part mastered, actually, in his Screw You I’ll Do What I Want sort of way.

  38. paige

    SuperBolt’s next home needs to be someone who does agility. I wish I had time to compete, still, I’d take him. He sounds perfect for it.

    Eventually the live trap will get him. In the mean time, at least you know he’s not starving to death. Some day…a long LONG time from now…you will laugh about this.

  39. Paula

    Am I the only one that keeps checking in to see if there is a Super update? ;-D

  40. David

    That dog is crazy like a fox. Already he’s got you feeding him grilled chicken. =) What really surprises me is that you haven’t managed to catch some other neighborhood pooch in there. I guess the word’s out on the doggie grapevine. ;-)

  41. Sarah K

    Nope, I’m checking in on SuperBolt the Dimentodoodle. Post if you can when he’s caught… even if you only return him to the shelter.

  42. Katie

    Prednisone, ack! I was on that last year (poison ivy) and it made me crazy. Err, crazier than usual.

    So sorry about the insane dog. Having had all sorts of pets, a dog was the most high maintenance. Guinea pigs were tied with the dog for most expensive (the litter and hay add up quick). Right now we have 1 cat. And she rocks. No boarding cots, cat food & litter are super cheap, and she doesn’t bark.

    And now I feel like I should have started my pet rambling with “Well ACTUALLY”.

  43. Kristie

    I’ve checked about 20 times (give or take a dozen) for Super updates.

  44. Betty

    My dog is the neediest,most neurotic guy I know-and I love it!DELIGHTFUL READING-betty

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