Long ago, when I first began writing newspaper columns about life on the farm, I was a new mother of an only child.
And while life seemed very much different back then, it seems that it was just as exasperating as it is now that the kid and critter count is much higher. In a spring cleaning of my hard drive, I ran across an old column that brought back a memory and made me smile:
My husband and I decided upon our marriage that we would like to raise our family in the country. We had both been raised that way, so our bias was strong toward that manner of upbringing. The benefits seemed clear; country kids have all of the great outdoors in which to play, they are taught responsibility at a young age, and rural schools are focused on individuals.
What we didn’t realize, of course, was that raising kids in the country also has a few drawbacks.
My two-year-old son thinks he’s a dog.
I’m not kidding.
Riley doesn’t get out much, so his playmates are rather limited. He has two cats, eight chickens, and a border collie/Australian shepherd mutt named Mitch.
The chickens aren’t real good company, so for awhile Riley befriended the cats. He drug them around by their tails, and in return he allowed them to groom him. He would come in from the yard with 25 cowlicks all over his head and a smile on his face.
The smile was partially due to the fact that he let the cat in with him, and he would chase it around saying, “No kitties in the house!”
He still associates with the cats from time to time, but his real fascination is with the dog. It began with the doghouse in the back yard.
Doghouses, of course, are just the perfect size for toddlers to hide in. Mitch was quite surprised to find a little boy in his doghouse one afternoon, but he didn’t let Riley bother him. He ate some food from the dish in the doghouse and went about his way.
Three seconds later, Riley was eating dog food from the dish in the doghouse.
He wasn’t just picking it up and eating it. He had his face in the dish.
I yelled. I screamed. I forced him inside. I did just about everything I could think of to keep him from eating the dog’s food, but it was to no avail. The only way to prevent it is to remove the dish, and that makes the dog mad.
Riley has also taken to eating like a dog when he’s at the table. He begs for food and won’t take it unless you feed it to him like you would feed scraps to the dog.
If I’m not watching, he drinks from the bowl of water we leave out for Mitch. He puts his face down and laps it up, just like his hero.
Yesterday I looked out the kitchen window only to see him sitting beside Mitch, scratching at his face like he had fleas. He probably does.
People tell me not to worry. Kids will be kids, and it’s just a stage.
That’s easy for them to say. We recently visited my dad’s house, and Riley was “helping” Grandpa wash up in the bathroom. Dad’s dog snuck in behind them and began lapping up water out of the toilet.
I’m sure that Riley stored that image in the back of his mind somewhere, so for now we’re carefully watching his bathroom behavior, and my gray hairs are multiplying daily.