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My mistake

by Barry L. Levy

This past Saturday night, I had no choice but to restrain my wife. It’s true. My arms around hers. My hand covering her mouth. For those of you curious, there are photos and video of the event floating in the ether . . . not surprising, consider the two hundred people surrounding us, witnessing our shtick.

And to be clear, it was shtick. Or, more appropriately our shtick. Despite how it sounds, no, it was not inappropriate, nor alcohol induced. I promise.

This was about three things. An auction. A deal . . . and a dog. Well, and maybe a bit more, but I’ll get there.

As part of our son’s preschool fundraiser there was a housebroken puppy up for auction. And my wife had fallen in love with him.

I tried sitting on our bidding paddle . . . that proved unsatisfactory. As did my attempts at pulling a Jedi mind trick on her.

The heart wants what the heart wants and she wanted the dog. Badly. Which left me little choice. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

But this is not the mistake that the title of this week’s blog refers to.

See, as is so often the case, life is never so simple.

You may recall from one of my earlier blogs how last year my kids proudly shared with the world that our cats had died. I believe they posted it on the newswire services.

At the time, my wife wasn’t exactly subtle in her desire to be out of the cat business, going so far as to call the carpet cleaners while I was driving our ailing feline to the vet, to have them put her down (the cat, not my wife).

In defense of my wife, her argument was that these cats weren’t great pets. And she’s right. They were great pets for me . . . but, just me. The male, Nate, followed me everywhere. Slept on the corner of my desk while I worked. His sister was a total recluse, only showing herself either after everyone else had gone to sleep or when I was alone.

In short, they had issues. Lots of them. At one point, a vet had to prescribe prozac for the female. True.

In my defense, I got them back in my single days. I’d been promoted as an exec, moved into my own place and I wanted a pet, dog or cat, but I was gone too many hours of a day to get a dog. So I got two cats, figuring they would take care of themselves.

Because they’d been mine before they’d been ours, it made sense that I was the primary caregiver. Litter cleanings. Feedings. Hairball pick-ups. I got first dibs. 🙂

On our first date, my wife and I walked along the beach near Gladstone’s. We saw what amounted to the cutest puppy ever. Since that day, we have talked about how we would one day get a dog for our kids to play with.

My personally affinity would be a big scary dog that might scare away teenage boys in the years to come, but I’m open.

Now once the cats had passed, it was time to discuss. Our kids are on board. Hell, they may be steering the ship to some extent. Falling in love with any and every dog.

They had names picked out. Three different names. Three different dog preferences.

But that is not what has prevented us from bringing home a dog. There’s something else. After 15 years of shoveling cat gifts and spraying away carpet stains, I was done.

In my mind, my wife and I needed to understand that I didn’t want to be responsible for another pet. I wanted the pet, just not to be responsible for it. As soon as my wife agreed to be the primary caregiver, I was in.

We’d have the same conversation, time and time again. I’d say my piece. She’d remind me that the cats had been mine, this was different.

We’d go around and around.

Until amid the auction she finally agreed. She would be the primary caregiver. Well, more accurately, she answered “fine!” Which, I took to suggest we had a deal. I mean, I’m fairly certain, we have a deal. My wife never changes her mind.

Pause, pause, pause.

So why didn’t we bring home that dog? Well, the bidding had cleared 800 dollars plus. And while I love what the school is doing for my son, I’m pretty sure there’s another way to bring home a dog without leaving behind a boat load of cash.

But see that’s the thing. Here’s my big mistake. It wasn’t in my negotiating acumen. No, I actually feel like we both won.

It was in bringing something more to the mix: emotion. Like I said up front, this isn’t just about a dog. Or an auction, or a deal, but something bigger.

We all want to teach our kids the importance of how we must learn from history so that we don’t repeat it. However, learning from the past and lugging the emotional baggage from the past around are two vastly different things.

When daughter wakes me up at 5 in the morning because she’s decided that she’s now up for the day, it’s really hard to not connect this to previous 5 am wake ups.

Or when my son and I cycle through the 100th bout of “but dad, why can’t I have pretzels for breakfast?” The frustration does accrue. The answer to pretzels for breakfast is simple. Yes . . . kidding. Kidding. I swear.

Obviously, the answer is no. It only becomes a problem when he picks up on my frustrated undercurrents. Really, are we doing this again!? Suddenly, we’re not discussing pretzels, but I’m preventing his independence.

When my daughter pokes me in those pre-dawn hours, sure, it’s important to draw clear boundaries . . . enforce them . . . blah blah blah . . . and yet, ranting about how I haven’t had a good night sleep in years, probably isn’t doing either of us any good.

The thing is despite knowing this basic truth, the practice of living it still eludes me. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but well . . . it became crystal clear on Saturday night amid the performance art that my wife and I engaged in.

I want a dog. We all want one. At a certain point, I need to let go of the 15 years of clumpable litter and just suck it up.

But I am holding onto my deal.

Right??

Hey, I’m allowed to be a work in progress, aren’t I?

Barry L. Levy

About Barry L. Levy

Barry Levy is a husband. A father. A writer. His "credits" include Noa, Jordan, Ben. His writing credits include Vantage Point & Paranoia. Follow him on Twitter @barryllevy

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