They’re not giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time.

“He’s not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time”. I read it on a dog training board, but can’t remember if it was something people say about kids that works for dogs or vice versa. It really stuck with me, ringing true for a number of situations. At first, I thought about my poor, anxious dog, who reacts to meeting new people with a lot of barking and lunging and otherwise inappropriate behavior. It’s easy to get mad, because it makes it difficult for us to have people over or introduce him to anyone. It’s easier to be kind to him when we remember he’s doing it because new people are scary and stressful, and he’s having a very hard time.

In motherhood, I try to remember this as well. Yesterday, the baby had his 6 month shots. While he’s been sleeping pretty well lately, he was difficult to get to sleep, woke up often, and was difficult to resettle after he did wake up. It’s easy to be frustrated in the wee hours of the morning when you should be asleep and you are awoken by a tiny little person who just wants to be held. As I stood there feeling the weight of him in my arms, his face in the crook of my neck, I thought to myself “he’s not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time”. I gave him Tylenol, I rocked his little body, I stroked his little head. He won’t always want me when he’s having a hard time, but I hope to always respond with grace and patience when he does.

I’m grateful to my weird little dog for teaching me this lesson, well before this perfect little human had to. Having a dog isn’t the same as having a child, but I’m always grateful for the lessons that left me just a little better prepared.

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