I am a single mom.
The dogs have been with us for a week now, and it has been a week of contrasts: the events of the week have been at times long and stressful and at the other times heartwarming; I have felt heartsick during some moments yet so full of gratitude and hope during other moments; and the dogs are adorable, precious, and loveable yet so energetic, expensive, and naughty. Two cats, two dogs, two kids, one condo with no backyard, and one parent. You do the math.
On Sunday afternoon, we loaded girls and dogs into the car and drove to a friend’s house to walk her dog while she’s out of town. Her offer was well-intentioned as she thought it would be a great time for our dogs to run around; however, as her backyard isn’t fenced in, it was a complete fiasco. Her dog snipped at Sam and Thorin when they tried to sniff him, so we had to walk them all separately. Sam and Thorin jerked on their leashes, dashing this way and that way, sniffing everywhere, barking at a tortoise, straining to escape and run free.
As soon as possible, we loaded everyone up again, and I drove the girls to High Tide, the youth service at our church. Sam and Thorin hopped out the door, wanting to follow the girls into church, and it took five minutes to force them back into the van.
I brought the dogs back home and finally took a quick, ten-minute shower. Ten minutes of peace for the day. Thorin peed in the hallway in protest. The dogs are as bad as when the girls were toddlers and I couldn’t even escape to the bathroom for five minutes without being needed.
I subbed on Monday, and the girls hung out with the dogs since it was a teacher workday (no school for them). That afternoon, the girls hung out with friends while I kept the dogs company. I ran Lexi to work that evening and met a wonderful friend who brought us boxes and bags of groceries. I won’t have to go to the grocery store for a week! When the girls saw the food, they were happy. When they saw the vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, and they said, “I love her. I’m making a special thank you card. I love her.”
All day, we tried and failed to find a solution but couldn’t find a long-term solution (still waiting to hear back from a few possibilities) or even a short-term answer for the next day when I had work while the girls had school. We could not leave the dogs home alone as they bust out of kennels and either pee in the house (Thorin) and/or destroy property (Sam). Not to mention the poor cats are still angry about being locked up, even though we have given them a bigger room and spent time with them. (We’ve introduced the cats and dogs to each other a few times, and we all have scratches to prove it. Not yet a viable option to leave the cats and dogs home together.)
Either way, we knew we could not leave the dogs home alone for eight hours, and we couldn’t find a pet-sitter. With no other choice, one of the girls would have to stay home with them for a day.
That evening, we were all exhausted, sore, overwhelmed, frustrated, and low on emotional and physical resources. We walked the dogs again before bed, and the evening disintegrated into chaos as we tried to figure out what to do. Lexi snapped at Laina who snapped back. I yelled at them both. Laina, the one who we decided had to stay home, cried. Then, she whined at Lexi who flung back a sarcastic retort. I pleaded for peace. Our verbal swords flung back and forth in a never-ending circle until I realized that we hadn’t fought like this in a very long time and I didn’t like going backwards like that.
Throughout, Laina’s mantra resounded, “I have to go to school tomorrow. I can’t take this. I have to go to school. I can’t take this anymore. It’s too much responsibility in the condo. I have to go to school.”
It took some time, but I finally corralled the girls into sitting down together, and after working through some of the issues, we gave thanks for all of our blessings and prayed for a solution.
I hated leaving Laina home with the dogs. She was able to get ahead with school work, but I know she wants to be with her teachers and friends. To complicate matters, I received a text from my ex: I understand you kept Laina home from school today. Why?
I thought that question deserved no response, so I did not send one. Rather than share all of my not-so-polite thoughts about the matter, I am trying to find my center, to remain calm, to breathe through all of this, but to be honest, I am finding it difficult. As I wrote those words, I remembered reading about Nehemiah this week and all of the opposition against him. When his opponents asked him for a meeting in an attempt to divert him from his purpose, he refused to meet them and remained steadfast. When they wrote a letter full of lies about him to distract him from his purpose, he refused to be averted and remained steadfast. When they sent someone to tempt and discredit him, he recognized the malevolent intent, refused to be swayed, and remained steadfast in what he knew was right and what he needed to do and continued praying. He guarded himself and succeeded in the end.
I am encouraged by his example. It is so easy to listen to lies, manipulations, and gossip and to become wrapped up in it. Sometimes we want to fit in, so we participate in something that we know isn’t right. Other times, we listen to warped perspectives and become defensive, wasting too much time and energy on trying to straighten them out when there is no need, which leads to anxiety and feeling insane (This I know well from personal experience). Often it appears difficult to recognize malicious intent, but we can learn to do so when we focus on our purpose and do not allow ourselves to become sidetracked. All we need to do is remain steadfast and pray, and, thus, guard ourselves. The truth will always be revealed eventually. This lesson speaks to the heart of what I needed to hear. I am learning to let go of defensive behaviors, to recognize manipulation, and to concentrate on what’s next on my path.