Our oldest daughter called me the other day. It’s always nice to hear from her. Now that she has a full-time job and is officially off my payroll, her incoming text messages and phone calls are that much more enjoyable.
Actually with this particular call she was reaching out to her mother.
“Looking for mom?” I asked.
“Yes. I need to know how she prepares the apricot sauce she spreads on pork chops,” she replied.
Could this be another milestone on the road to maturity? She’s cooking? Just goes to disprove that old saying you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.
OK, so she has prepared a few meals on her own. How else could she finish graduate school and live away from home for all those years?
Now at age 25 she’s finally reached the “dog” stage in life.
When your children are young, their behavior could be compared to that of a puppy. They’re sweet. They’re fun. They like to be cuddled. They’ll follow you around the house and enjoy being in your company. My wife likes to reminisce about the early years when she could dress the girls in matching outfits and put fancy ribbons in their hair.
Like puppies, they’re excited about seeing you come home from work. You can travel and vacation together without annoying confrontations. You can teach them new things (tricks) and they’ll openly show their appreciation.
Puppies are warm and fuzzy and genuinely like being by your side. They love the attention and show it with sloppy licks and wagging tails. Your kids show it with sloppy kisses and lots of hugs.
Then something happens. Your little puppy morphs into a cat. The early teenage years set in and before you know it there’s a cat living with you. Cats are independent. They’re elusive. They don’t say much except an occasional meow when they want something. For the most part they’re reclusive and prefer keeping to themselves.
At this age teenagers become less communicative with parents. They enjoy their rooms more than being present elsewhere in the house. Teenagers, like cats, will avoid their parents. They believe they’re self-sufficient and know all there is in life. You can’t teach them anything they already don’t know and the advice you do give goes in one ear and out the other. It’s like talking to a cat.
Then, after some trying years, something wonderful happens to your kids. They turn back into dogs. The older they get the more social they become towards good old mom and dad. They actually make eye contact during your conversations. And they genuinely listen to what you have to say. The lovable dog is back. And suddenly your kids become your best friends. That warm puppy you remember growing up has evolved from the reclusive cat back into a fun-loving dog and your relationship takes a new direction.
It’s a remarkable transition that explains some of the challenges parents face when raising children.
Trying to understand this process is almost impossible. My advice is just let them evolve, keep them fed and provide them shelter. It may take a little longer for some cats to revert back to dogs. Be patient. The day will eventually come when you’ll need to change the status on their ID tag. And when that time comes, you’re on your way to providing them with apricot sauce recipes. And then perhaps some day they’ll invite you to visit their own dog house to share in that pork chop dinner.
Richard Esposito is publisher of the Mountain Democrat.