Nobody’s perfect, or is it just me?

Jelly with her long yellow tennis-ball-coloured toy

After a few worrisome days, Jelly is slowly coming back to life. She has howled a few times, brought us her favourite toy (you know which one that is), and managed a few short walks. She’s slowly on her way to a full recovery.

Every step she takes forward, it seems our parenting takes a step back. For example, in our desperation for her to eat again, we’ve been doling out treats out left and right. No need to sit or shake a paw or any other awe-inspiring manoeuvre; a mere visit to the kitchen is all it takes. And we’re normally pretty stingy on the treat front.

Then there’s the sleep issue. After a few days of sleeping longer than me, imagine my excitement when Jelly woke me early Saturday morning to give me a kiss. Could there be a better way to start my day than with a kiss from a perky pooch? In my joy, the fact that it was 5:20 a.m. didn’t even register. What happened to the rigidly consistent parent who would normally send Jelly back to bed?

That parent was MIA Saturday. I was so excited Jelly was feeling better that I leapt out of bed at that ungodly hour and took her out for her morning piddle. Then I fed her a little bit of food to assess her level of hunger–she’d eaten very little for two days by then–rather than holding off until her usual breakfast time.

Then, I disclose with deep shame, I let her come up for what we like to call “family bed”, a very occasional Saturday occurrence (Saturday is  laundry day) when Jelly joins us in the human bed so we can all sleep in together. She was snoring within seconds, allowing her parents another hour or so to snooze. Boy did we need it. All that fretting was interfering with everyone’s sleep.

Is this good parenting or bad? Must we judge it at all? I’d call my behaviour typical parenting, but maybe I’m being defensive in a time of weakness. Even parents who normally set diligent boundaries with their children lapse sometimes. It’s simply harder for many parents to set firm and consistent limits with any being, two- or four-legged, who has some kind of health or emotional challenge. Finally I understand why parents let their children into their bed in the wee hours: they’re too exhausted to send them back to their own beds.

All rules were not forgotten, however. At no point did we let Jelly up on the couch, despite my really really wanting to invite her. Is merely wanting to break a rule a parenting sin too? I’m told that so long as I don’t act on it, I’m okay.

Firm and consistent parenting is an ideal, but there has to be some room for flexibility too. Rules are hard to uphold, and sometimes I’m guided by emotion rather than reason. I’m weak, I admit.

Today, we were already back on track. I sent Jelly back to bed rather than celebrating her early morning awakening. Then we headed to a PALS visit, where I met a woman whose dog sleeps until 10 a.m. most days. Dare to dream, Annie, dare to dream.

basset sleeping on bed, head out and human's feet out as well

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