Everything I know I learned from having a puppy…?

Here we are, week four of having a dependent creature newborn in our lives. Time has passed reeeeallly slowly and very, very quickly all at once, something I’m sure you parents know about.

The nights days are long but the naps years are short.

Three years ago – also in late summer – we brought home our first puppy. Like The Monster*, he was also tiny, adorably cute, and incredibly adept at making our world revolve around him. And just like now, the strategies for managing his life so our lives could continue were either very specific or too general and almost always in direct conflict with another expert.


My son is actually quite wonderful as newborns go. He generally cries when something is wrong and his fussiness – as fussiness goes – is pretty junior varsity. Even his B-Team game has the power to make me want to forfeit, though.

We’re trying out different strategies, a process that reminds me of having a new puppy, wherein I learned a few things:

  1. Commitment to the cause matters. If I don’t fully, deeply, devoutly believe in the plan, it’ll fail. Also, I have to make sure I fully understand and support the rationale for anything I attempt so that if I have to wing it, I can do so in line with the plan.
  2. Only attempt what you can stick out. A good friend of mine uses completely different techniques for managing her dog than we ultimately did with ours, and her dog is far, far, FAR better behaved than ours, but in the end I didn’t have the oomph to do it her way so my half-*ssed attempts just made us all miserable.
  3. Think it through and let it settle before trying something new. With the pup, I’d read a book and jump right in without making sure my husband was on board or firming up the plan, so the poor pup just felt inconsistency. No bueno.

I try to keep these lessons in mind as we debate how fully to try something like Moms On Call (momsoncall.com), with their schedules and their limited crying and did I say they suggest you let the baby cry a little bit? When my kid cried in the car (and I suspect all babies cry in the car), I ended up crying too. (Note: our pediatrician is okay with sleep periods of up to five hours at night as long as he’s eating every three hours during the day… to which I say, HA, dude is determined to eat every two hours and 40 minutes, SO THERE. Damn him and his little internal clock. If only we could find the button to reset the alarm.)

So many questions to answer.

Can I stick it out? Is this best for him AND for the rest of us or am I falling for the promise of more sleep for the grown-ups while screwing over the little guy? Do I believe that my job is to set myself aside for the next eight weeks to give him everything he asks for or what he needs? What DOES he need? And does putting him in an electronic swing count as parenting, really? Do I believe that it doesn’t, or am I just worried that I should think it doesn’t? How often is too often to call one’s mother for advice when one is a mother and 32 years old, to boot?

In the end we let the dogs mostly run amok except for a few critical rules we I enforced consistently. I figured out my principles and ignored everyone whose advice didn’t fit them. I stopped reading anyone except a few authors.

Now I just have to do the same things without permanently screwing my son up since I was saving that for his teenaged years.

*We’re back to calling him The Monster like we did during my second trimester of pregnancy, this time with cause.


4 thoughts on “Everything I know I learned from having a puppy…?

  1. You can’t really mess them up too much at this age! Jut do whatever feels right to you. I never completely agreed with one technique, so I would take what did work and promptly forget the rest. I let my daughter cry it out to go to bed but if she wakes up in the middle of the night I go in and feed her. It’s not what you are “supposed” to do, but I’m fine with that. I think one of the most important lessons I have learned is to be confident in your decision. Who cars what anyone else is doing or thinks. As long as it works for your family then it is the “right” thing to do!

  2. If I’m remembering correctly, the hardest thing for me to grasp was that there were soooo many different variables to consider when trying decide how to ‘do’ anything if it wasn’t working out right for us! Especially since at this age they grow out of a phase faster than you can try every method..it was overwhelming and discouraging. I’m hoping wih baby two, I will give myself more room/permission to go with the flow…but yeah…that’s a tough one!

  3. All I would say is you can’t spoil a baby. WE had to hold our daughter all night for four months, was terrified that that would mean she’d never settle into a cot once her awful reflux settled. She was absolutely fine at adapting. I won’t debate my personal views, go with instinct over books every time. But if you’re going to use book techniques make sure you’re informed about both sides of that. The Science of Parenting is a great book.

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