Raising children is not for the faint of heart. They seem to specialize in keeping us off balance, so the best advice I ever received on child rearing was to think about them like cats and dogs.
When your children are young, they are like dogs. At home, in the parsonage, our little dog, Charlie, is a refugee from the pound. He’s part terrier and part dachshund with a dash of DNA from the far side of the gene pool. Be that as it may, Charlie loves me unconditionally. When I come through the door, his whole-body wiggles with excitement. He barks, races around me, and leads me to believe that I am the focus of his life.
Preschoolers can be like that, too. “Daddy’s home!” Little legs pump furiously so they can wrap their tiny arms around my neck. Butterfly kisses and footy rides make life grand. Then one day, you come home, and everything has changed.
I bought a tandem bike at a garage sale and decided to pick up my daughter, Charlotte, from junior high school on it. She was definitely not impressed. I don’t think she has ever forgiven me for forcing her to ride home on the back of it, in front of her friends.
The advice? One day, sometime around a quarter to teen, your loving dog will turn into a cat. Cats love you, but on their terms. “You may pat me now. You may feed me now. You may have the privilege of cleaning my litter box now.”
“What happened to my little girl? When was my joyful son turned into the troll who lives below the stairs?” Confusion confronts most parents until they realize their dog is now a cat. They still love you, just in a different way.
The good news is, sometime after college, your cat will turn back into a dog, and it will be smooth sailing again.