Saturday, July 16, 2011

Training the trainer

Yikes - it's been a long time!  One may notice...and I hope at least one does...that I haven't written for a while.  I started a few times to get my thoughts down, but have been unsuccessful at penning a complete post.  I've got a few "valid" excuses, primarily lack of time and computer troubles, but the truth is I have mostly chosen not to write.  Or, when I felt I might have a moment to write, the words just didn't seem to flow.
 It’s been a little over a month since school let out and my summer started.  While this would seem to imply that I have more time on my hands, the reality is I have been more intentional with the time I've had.  I feel, in many ways, like I have wasted fewer minutes in the last month or so than I did when my schedule was full with "work".  My goal has been to soak up the time with my kids and pour out into them, giving them structured fun and learning opportunities.


They have definitely had time for free fun without me hovering, but in those times, I seem to find myself working on projects or maintaining the home.  And, as of last week, we added a dog to the mix and have an out of town hubby.   Mind you, I have watched a few Netflix episodes of Monk along the way… while working on projects or sorting laundry (okay...stop laughing at my choice)...but rarely has a minute been "wasted".  And, while I do not view writing as wasted time at all, there just has not been enough time to spend at the keyboard or to spin thoughts as well as I would like.  Hence, my days away and my current attempt to write again...
In light of my new life at home full time with three kids and a dog, I have been thinking a lot about training.  Isn’t it true that, in many ways, training up a child or training a pet is less about training the child or the pet and more about training ourselves?  And, isn’t it true that picking your battles well can be half the battle? 
Since we have such a great yard and three kids that run around in it, I have a strong desire to train my dog, Smudge, to poop and pee in one particular area.  According to a number of well-intended pet owners and experts on line, this should be a relatively simple task.  Take pooch out to the same place each time he has to go.  Praise him like crazy when he does.  Be consistent and he will soon get the hang of it and eagerly go where he is supposed to go.  Huh.  I wish these experts would have a dog whispering session with my Smudge and let him know what his half of this plan is.  I cannot even begin to calculate the number of minutes – hours actually – that I have spent this past week in a particular spot behind our garage.  The mosquitos are surely laughing at the crazy lady with wonderful veins who stands there just waiting to be eaten repeating “go potty” over and over again to an oblivious dog.  For some reason, my dog – a sweet beagle spaniel mix – has a bladder of steel.  Honestly, he usually only goes twice a day.  (Yes, he has all day access to water)  One would think he would want to go first thing in the morning.  Nope – nothing, not even a trickle.  And pooping – ugh – last night I was out with him for a long time, brought him in, took my eyes off of him for one minute thinking he was with another family member, and found him starting to go in the boys’ bathroom.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I ran him straight out to finish his business in my designated area and then praised him for “going potty OUTSIDE!”  Tonight I figured with three successes and a save within the last day and a half, I would have no problem getting him to go again in the “right” place.  Wrong.  It was not gonna happen.  So, after standing around in the same place for far too long, I broke my training plan and took Smudge for a walk/run around the block and visited with the neighbors for a few minutes.  Then, after watching Smudge pounce on a baby frog, I took him back to the spot for several minutes more.  Nothing.
It was at that moment I decided that I needed to surrender, or at least compromise, this battle for the moment.  I was driving myself crazy, feeding multiple mosquitos, feeling like I was wasting a load of time, and clearly not making headway with my puppy.  At that moment, I abandoned my post and decided to walk him around my yard for just a little more time.  Sure enough, back near the woods, he decided to do his thing.  “Good boy!!  Good potty outside!”  I was happy he got the job done within my yard, but silently mourning the lost battle.  I wonder if Smudge was silently celebrating his victory or if he was just relieved to have relieved himself in a place that fit his olfactory preferences best.  Tomorrow morning, I will need to decide how badly I want to get him to go where and when I want him to go...and whether it’s a battle I want to continue and work to train at this point. 
Consistency is so often the key to training.  When training up my kids, I am most successful when I am consistent with them.  Consistent boundaries, consistent rules, consistent expectations, and follow through.  Sometimes, in my fatigue or my busy-ness, I give up an opportunity for beneficial follow through.  On occasion, it’s not a big deal.  But sometimes, especially with particular personalities, my lack of a reliable response results in a step back in behavior or a manipulation on the part of my child.  My lack of carry-through can create the behavior I want to extinguish.  As well, when I want to be successful with fitness, I need to be consistent in my training.  My recent lack of consistency in fitness is annoyingly evident, but not enough so that I have forced myself over to the Y or onto the treadmill in my warm garage.  I will likely be bugged by the fact that I’m softer than I want to be, but have only myself to blame.  Consistency in exercise and a healthy diet, as “hard” as it may seem sometimes, is the only way to ensure that I am doing my part to shape my shape.  It is hard to be consistent sometimes, but the payoff is directly related to the time put in.
Time in prayer or in God’s word is the same way.  If I don’t…more aptly, when I don’t… consistently seek some time to spend with the One who wants to spend time with me the most, I lose headway in my “spiritual training.”  Just like it is easy to put off the gym or a guiding instruction to a child, it is far too easy for me to put off my time with God.  This avoidance or simple neglect leads to a greater gap in the relationship that I know I need to feed the most.  While I may long to be tight with God, if I don’t do my share of the work, by consistently thinking about and spending time with Him, it just won’t happen.  And, in reality, this battle is the most important one for me to choose to fight and fight well.

I wish I was more of a steady ship sometimes...that I could set my course and never waiver...that I never lacked the consistency and discipline required to be the perfect parent, the most fit 40 year old around, and the closest friend that Jesus could ever have.  And yet, I know that I likely will never be any of those things.  However,  I know that I am still growing and - if I allow myself to be - still being shaped by the One who knows me best and sees me even in my weakness.  As I've said before, He's not finished with me yet.  For that, I am consistently thankful!

Can you believe I am posting this picture?  This was last winter at my sister's cabin before some late night skiing, I think.
 I feel as if I could write more or at least edit what I’ve written to make it flow more.  But I am going to end here or this will be one more started and unfinished posts waiting to be completed.  I have been consistently going to bed too late this past week.  This is one consistent habit I need to change so that I am not too tired to soak in, pour out, and be consistent with my kids and my Smudge.  I hope to get back into the swing of things and write more often again.  We will see.  I have certainly missed it, but have been thankful for the things that have taken up the time gained by not writing.
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts or ideas.  It is always an encouragement.


  1. With all four kiddos home this summer, I've really been realizing how hard it is to be a consistent parent. Particularly, I know that my boys from "hard places" may need a more trust-based parenting approach...but, having grown up in a first-time obedience home (and having had such a truly wonderful childhood myself), I sometimes find myself with certain expectations that may not match our reality. It's hard! Anyway, thanks for sharing your "rough" thoughts...and keep having an intentional summer!

  2. I noticed! So glad you wrote! You are amazing, Kathy! I love it when you write!


Share your thoughts, feelings, or your own related experiences. I love that! And, as always, thanks for stopping by!