It’s easy to spot a bad parent. Just go to any park or playground. They’re the ones texting while their precious angel bites other kids and builds molotov cocktails to throw at passing cars.
Sometimes it’s even easier to find a bad parent. All you have to do is look in the mirror.
A few days ago a friend gave my kids a dog. Both of my boys were, at the same time, nervous and excited.
The youngest was nervous because he had been bitten by dogs before. Recent research shows that kids who have been bitten by dogs don’t like getting bitten again.
The oldest was nervous because he was afraid that, “the dog might mess up some of my school papers.” I tried to explain that having a dog that messes with school papers has saved millions of kids who forgot to do their homework. He didn’t understand.
When the dog showed up my kids were hesitant. I was quick to take the dog to the backyard and play with him so that my sons could see that he was friendly. My strategy seemed to work. Within an hour, both boys were running around the backyard with their new best friend. My youngest son named him Punch.
Punch stunk. He smelled sort of like the men’s restroom at Taco Bell. But that was nothing that a good bath wouldn’t take care of. I washed that dog like he was a Mercedes. My sons even helped. Problem solved.
By the time my wife got back from the store Punch was inside with us, laying on the rug. His coat was shiny. Like a Mercedes. The first thing my wife said when she walked in the door was, “Shew! That dog stinks.”
I had already noticed the smell. I tried to convince myself that it was me, not the dog. I’ve never been so disappointed to find out that I wasn’t the one that smelled bad.
We decided to take Punch for a walk. We humans had a most marvelous time. But Punch didn’t do much walking. Dragging, I think, is the better term.
When dinner time rolled around we put Punch in his crate. My wife and I had done this before with another dog. He barked a lot but eventually learned to love his new 0.0043 square foot home. Punch just barked a lot. And it made my youngest son cry. Louder than Punch’s barking. If you happened to be in the states of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama or Mississippi on the evening of March 4, I apologize for the loud noise.
Eventually I took the dog outside and walked around with him saying, “Poop. Poop. Poop.” This did wonders for getting him to quit barking but not so much for getting him to go to the bathroom. Punch, it seems, is still working with a limited vocabulary.
When I came back inside my wife and I gave each other a look. We never said a word. Our eyes did the talking for us.
That dog has to go.
I called a friend.
“Hey, Most Excellent Buddy of Mine. How would you like to be the proud new owner of a new dog?”
My friend sent two mafia hitmen to my door, Vito and Tiny, who firmly encouraged me to never offer another dog to him or his wife. They had enough already.
There had to be another taker for our dog. But until then, Punch would be sleeping outside.
We made it through the night without a sound. I wasn’t sure what to do about Punch so I asked God to give me wisdom. While I waited, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
When my boys woke up I asked them if they wanted to keep Punch. I was thinking that maybe the newness had worn off. When they said that they wanted to keep him, I said what any rational, forward thinking parent would say.
“Look, if you decide not to keep the dog, I’ll buy you some ice cream and Legos.”
A tear rolled down my oldest son’s cheek. But even before that I knew that what I said was wrong. I was more concerned with my own comfort than I was my son’s joy and the opportunity for them to learn life long lessons about responsibility.
We decided to keep Punch and make him an outside dog. And I asked God to redeem my foolish parenting mistake. My kids were happy and I was relieved.
In our own way, all parents have our moments when we’re a lot like that mom at the park, texting while her kid terrorizes. Maybe our mistakes are easier to pass off but they are no less selfish. Thankfully, God does not ask us to be perfect. He does that on our behalf. But he does ask us to be obedient. And sometimes obedience means admitting that we’re wrong.
My son eventually wiped the tears from his eyes. But he still had one question.
“Dad, even though we’re keeping the dog, can we still get Legos and ice cream?”