Monday, February 9, 2009

Inside Dog Jail

Before Ben was even sitting up on his own, one of my biggest worries about a future milestone was how we were going to deal with the keeping the dogs out of his business while he was learning to crawl. The dogs, Hugo especially, are big Ben fans, and tended to, whenever opportunity presented itself, kiss him pretty much unceasingly. Luckily, Ben mostly didn't object to this, and as unsqueamish people and proponents of pets beefing up babies' immune systems, we didn't object, either.

But that was when Ben was mostly in our arms, able to be instantly swooped away from overwhelming dog interference at the first sign of his discomfort. I didn't want to jail the baby, so I figured we'd be facing months of jailing the dogs -- in the kitchen, behind gates, banished and unhappy, looking on and unable to participate.

What happened instead was this. We got a big plastic hinged gate and set it up in a play-pen shape with Ben's playmat and rugs for cushion, and lots of baby toys. The dogs would sit and gaze longingly at him, so that we got to calling inside the gate "outside dog jail" -- "dog jail" being, of course, the whole rest of the house. When the boy was first sitting up, he did some sitting in there, and a good bit of falling over. But he moved quickly from first being able to sit to being able to sit quite firmly and reliably, so that I wasn't as concerned that random canine incursions would knock him over and frighten him. So he started doing a lot of sitting inside dog jail, too (thus transforming it, of course, into something other than dog jail), and once that started, I came to learn through experience that while the dogs, especially Hugo, were eager to get up in his grill, they also love a lap on the sofa, and they'll mostly leave him alone so long as I'm willing to provide them with a warm body to curl up next to.

Now Ben is crawling and pulling up on furniture and even beginning to cruise, and contrary to my worries, the dogs didn't get in the way of his attaining these skills at all. But now that he's mobile, he's beginning to get into their business, up in their grills, and that's a whole new set of challenges and concerns.

The point of all of this is that it illustrates something I'm coming to understand about parenting. What you see as a challenge from the starting line tends to turn out not to be nearly so challenging, in part because once you've identified it, you've already started to solve it; and no sooner is the finish line in sight but you see that it's really the start of a whole new race.

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