Many Mothers

Raising a puppy has taught me more about myself than it has about raising a puppy.

I, who have most frequently found myself playing the role of princess, or fair maiden, or sometimes (I will own it) damsel in distress, now inhabit some new roles.

I am the Fairy Godmother, and as such it is my turn to watch patiently and to wait.  All I can do when I see that little guy squat on the carpet is to take a deep breath and calmly show him outside once again.  Strong and steady guidance is my game, with loving acceptance of the little staggers and stumbles along the way.  I wave my wand with benevolence, distributing treats when he pees outside, and cuddles when he gets scared.  At these times I fancy myself practically perfect in every way.  Look how wise and knowing I am!  Look how the puppy follows my advice, does my bidding!  That is until I turn my back for one moment and…another puddle of pee on the floor.

I can have endless patience when I decide to, but sometimes by the end of the day, I really want to just pack it in.  I wonder if the Fairy Godmothers in the stories ever felt this way—like they just wanted to turn wing and fly away to let that little girl fend for herself for a change because really how many times does a woman have to say “be home by midnight” before the helpless thing starts to pay attention!  Oh, what a fond self-image I had.  My grand plans to “just keep an eye on him” crumbling to dust as I swiftly succumb to frustration.

At the times when I’ve decided that enough is enough, I become the Witch.

I am the Witch who won’t let the puppy sleep in the big bed.  I am the Witch who put the puppy in the exercise pen I got for the living room, while he mopes up at me “But why, mom?  I used to be able to run around the whole apartment while you and dad chased after me!  It was so much fun!”  Yes, you did have fun, my pretty, but you’re a little dog still, and it was less fun when you peed in every room and almost pooped on the brand new carpet.  As Sondheim said, the Witch is not “good,” she’s not “nice,” she’s just “right.”  And right now mom needs a moment to herself to write a blog post.  To cook dinner.  To practice yoga.  To write her book.  To do the things that keep me sane and happy so I can be a better Fairy Godmother.

Is it wrong to feel sweet relief at these moments?  Whatever it is, I have learned that I crave the structure this puppy so desperately needs in order to learn his routine.  Watching him stare longingly through the bars of his pen, I can relate.  I used to chafe against the confines of structure too.  Now, though, the second that gate is shut I am off attending to the tasks of the day.  How amazing it is to do dishes! What fun to make the bed!  The puppy had me up at 7 again this morning and I never knew how much a person could get accomplished before lunchtime.  If this is what being a Witch feels like, I’ve gotta say there may be worse things to become.  This constant need to be productive, while raising a puppy, was something I had feared the most, and now it is my favorite part of the day.

Before I know it, the sun is setting.  The Fairy Godmother watched my little prince as he played, and walked, and ate, and did his business (sometimes where he should, sometimes not so much).  The Witch put him in the pen for quiet time and attended to my needs—going to the beach, eating lunch with friends, cleaning the apartment, or just sitting quietly for a while, listening to the wind chimes of my upstairs neighbor blowing in the soft Southern California breeze—and now it is just me and my little guy cuddling on the couch before bed.

With his little head resting against my chest, I become the Mother.

This creature, this small baby thing, depends on me completely.  It melts my heart when, after a long day of “Good boy!” And “No!” And “Yes!!” And “Oops,” he still stumbles sleepily across the cushions to rest his head in my lap.  He is not a child.  We will not come to have fights about politics or jam sessions in the car, and I will never drop him off at college—he is simply my little shadow.  My companion.  My little guy to love through the good and the bad.  And even more than that, he is my reminder to play, to let the small stuff roll off me, and to always take time for myself.  He has taught me that sometimes it’s good to be a little bit weird—to chase your tail and hide under the couch—and that structure can be a very welcome thing.

Raising a puppy has taught me more about myself that it has about raising a puppy—it has taught me that I have more me to give than I ever thought I had before.

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