Monday, May 20, 2013

Relocation Anxiety...It's Not Only For Humans

(This post previously appeared on and The Huffington Post.)

One of the hardest things about relocating from West Coast to East Coast, from house to apartment, from suburb to city was not my adjustment... it was dealing with the adjustment of Dashiell, my dog. As crazy as it sounds, that almost had me running for the hills... yes, the hills of Beverly!
I know that owning a pet is supposed to be good for you... in fact, just last week the American Heart Association released a statement claiming that owning a pet, a dog in particular, was "'probably associated' with a reduced risk of heart disease," and I get that. You have to walk a dog, thereby getting some exercise yourself, but the article never mentioned how having a dog might also be harmful to your mental health!

I realize now that it was pretty unrealistic (and somewhat unfair) of me to assume that Dashiell would just adapt to any new situation, regardless of how different it was from his old one. Why wouldn't he?... When we first rescued him, didn't he boundlessly race at us on the heels of a 17-hour drive from Utah to California? Didn't he seem deliriously happy with us, even though he had just met us?
Why would I think a six-hour plane ride in a crate would send him into a tizzy? Why would I think that getting on an elevator, while strange people would continually be coming in and out, would cause him to growl and lunge at said strangers?

Why would I think that being left alone in a unfamiliar apartment with the door closed while I went to the market or the movies would cause him to chew the door and eat an entire leather purse?
Silly of me to just assume that everything would be copasetic. After all, I didn't exactly chow down on some leather and wood, but my adjustment wasn't what you might call a "piece of cake," either.
Historically, dogs have been looked upon to be servant-soldiers, combining the attributes of a best friend with that of a true guardian. I began to realize that in his new situation, Dashiell was not being allowed to perform his old doggy duties -- guarding the back yard, front yard, upstairs and downstairs of our lives, so he was adopting new roles for himself. The problem with those new "soldiering" roles was they were not going to fly in a high-rise in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Relocating with children in tow has its own challenges, but if they are old enough to communicate their fears, and ultimately make new friends, that's half the battle. We had done that once before, and it all worked out perfectly. When it became clear to me that Dashiell was trying to communicate his fears, in his own destructive and scary way, I realized that if he was to remain a part of our family, a trainer would be needed.

That trainer, and time, have considerably improved his situation, and thus mine. Yes, he still lunges at (some) neighbors, but I always have a snack on hand and that usually diverts his attention long enough to calm him down. He's learned to sit and wait at stoplights and he is now used to all the city sounds that used to make him wince. The crowds no longer bother him, and the elevator no longer gives him the heebie-jeebies.

He doesn't mind being left alone at home. (He knows that once I'm gone he can sneak into our spare bedroom and sleep on the bed-I'm onto him, though.) No other purses or leather objects have suffered the same violent death as did the first purse, although tissues and toilet paper have to still be kept out of sight.

Awhile back, the two of us were on the elevator and a neighbor came on and asked how he was doing. "He has some good days, and some bad days," I remarked. And since we are in MIT territory and amongst the most erudite of erudites, her reply was not merely, an "Oh, I see," but,"Your dog is a metaphor of life."

And you know something, she was right. But taking it a step further, I would say, Dashiell is a metaphor of me. I have not totally adjusted to my new situation, but my attitude has definitely improved. Some days are better than others, and when some neighbors (or on a VERY rare occasion, my husband) annoy me, a nice snack does help. I've made some very interesting friends, as has Dashiell, and going to doggie day care every once in a while has really helped him become more sociable.

The relocation road has not been an easy one, for either of us, but with a little training, a rub behind the ears, and lots of love, we both will make it through.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Barbie Would Never Have Survived in My Home

I loved Barbie -- I had a bright red case, lots of clothes, and, like so many of my peers, various other items and accessories that gave my Barbie a life I could only have wished for myself. When I was old enough to stop playing with Barbie, my mom gave her and all her accoutrements away to a neighbor's granddaughter who did not have Barbie's lifestyle -- or one even similar to my own.
At the time, it never occurred to me (or my mom, obviously) to save my treasured doll, et al. for my own daughter... and it was probably just as well, because that beautiful little female made in my own image has never materialized. And, when my son was given a Ken doll for Hanukkah by a very PC-minded friend, he proceeded to rip the head off before the holiday was even over. Barbie would never have survived in my home, and I wanted so much more for her....
You know me: I'm the mom who shopped for sweats and shirts that said things like, "Baseball is Life," and "Warcraft Rules," while the other moms shopped for pretty party dresses and shirts emblazoned with sequins and hearts and flowers.
I'm the mom who drove carpool to soccer and baseball and basketball and was always finding athletic cups in every room of the house -- did you know those suckers can bounce like balls? --while the other moms drove to ballet and gymnastics and went to little girl tea parties.
I'm the mom who picked out the matching tie and cummerbund set and bought the wrist corsage for prom while the other moms were helping their teenage fashionistas pick out just the right dress that would transform them into women for the night.
Yes, I am the mom of boys... the daughterless mom. Do you think I'm bitter? Nah, I'm over it. I love my boys -- wouldn't trade them them for a sack of gold (most days), but I have to admit that there are many days when it would be nice to have someone join me at the nail salon, or in the dressing room to tell me my butt looks big in those pants... uh, maybe not.
"We are a sisterhood, we mothers of boys. We eye each other at the supermarket checkout counters and pass each other at the ice cream store (as our boys walk by, ice cream dripping down their cones and onto their hands). We give each other knowing glances, and we can have convos about poop and arm farting with the best of 'em."
While girls are written about using words like sparkles and sugar and spice, boys are written about using words like noise and dirt (and puppy dog tails).
I really didn't have a preference when I was pregnant the first time. I was delighted to have my son. I felt satisfied and fulfilled with my child and had my husband not wanted more children, I think I would have been fine with only one. But as time wore on, and as I thought about my boy being lonely as an only child, the pangs of motherhood began to get stronger and the excitement about having another babe in the house was palpable.
Of course it was going to be girl... NOT!
Once I got my second "bundle of boy," it became clear to me that my mission in life was to shape these guys into loving, respectful men for the women of the world. I wanted them to acquire aspects of my husband's personality, but there were things I could teach them as well.
As is stated in the book, Raising Cain, our culture stereotypes boys and shortchanges them by not developing their emotional attachment. I wanted my boys to be strong, and yet be able to communicate emotionally and be in touch with their feminine side as well. (When I found them trying on bras at Macy's when they were 8 and 4, that wasn't exactly what I had in mind.)
I wanted them to be adventurous -- something I am not -- but not too reckless. ("The orthopedist is my friend" has been my mantra, and the huge files in his office substantiate that.)
I wanted them to be equipped to withstand the wrenches life would throw at them. (And when my my son got his head stuck in the turnstile at CVS, and the announcement over the loudspeaker squawked, "We need the mega wrench at the front entrance," the boys handled the looky-loos very well.)
I believe I've done my job. My husband and I had two amazing boys who have grown into super men. They may not be exact physical images of me, but I see myself in there -- all the time. They are kind and loving and funny and wry. They are intuitive and very often they even "get" me. I am proud to be their mom. And when I look at them-looking at me-I feel a sense of love that I don't believe could have been any greater had they been daughters.
And, though the time for daughters-in-law is not nearly at hand (thank the lord), when that time does come, I expect those lucky girls to get down on their hands and knees and bless the ground I walk on. (Hah, I won't hold my breath!) But they'll have to do that before we do lunch and then go to the nail salon for mani/pedis. I wouldn't want them to smudge their polish.