The Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Your Children Are Listening
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
Yesterday was Mother’s Day, a day that used to be very difficult for several years after my own Mom passed away when I was just thirty-four, an age at which you are a full-fledged adult but also assume that you are going to have your parents around for a good twenty or more years. These days, though, I am blessed to be celebrated for my own maternal role in the lives of my kids.
I became a step-mom in April 2007 when I moved in with my husband and his three young children. He shares custody with the kids’ mother but because he has residential custody and the kids go to school in our district they are with us perhaps 60% to 70% of the time, especially now that they take the bus to school. This means that I became much more than an every-other-weekend step-mom, and I have been quite happy to take on the increased responsibilities and time with these incredible kids.
In 2013 when I left my corporate job to become self-employed, I really dug into the role of being a mother as I was able to give rides to school and actually make it to games and concerts instead of getting stuck in traffic during my commute home and feeling like I was missing out on everything that was important in life. In those last four years of being extremely active and present in their lives I have developed an even greater love for them and truly feel like they are my own. They are far more than “step” kids to me.
In addition to receiving awesome gifts like my favorite Starbucks drink, a card with a giraffe Mom and baby, and a new Pandora bracelet, their hand written messages in my card were the true gifts. They were at their mom’s house for the day so for dinner my husband took me for sushi, my favorite dinner out. We came home and resumed my catching up on The Walking Dead (I am on Season 5, episode 6, Chuck and our middle teen watch it as it happens) and chilling with Jackson and Tinkerbell.
When the kids came home from their mother’s house later that evening, our youngest girl filled me in on her progress with her 8th grade English project in which they had to write about a cause that was close to their heart and use Pathos, Ethos and Logos to prove their point. Her cause: ending animal abuse.
She told my husband and me all the information she had researched and written about, including the difference between direct physical abuse and indirect abuse/neglect. She went on to talk about how she had researched puppy mills and included those conditions as being abusive and also concluded that the lack of screening of potential puppy buyers in the pet stores that sell puppy mill and backyard breeder puppies could mean that abusive humans were able to easily purchase puppies from these stores and continue the abuse. She also concluded that this same lack of screening could contribute to dogs being surrendered to animal shelters because it meant that anyone could buy a puppy and then decide they did not want it anymore.
“Have you read my book?” I asked her.
“No,” she replied.
“Uh, ok, because you just touched on a number of topics that I am extremely passionate about in my blog and my book, so I am super proud that you came up with that on your own!”
“No, I haven’t read your blog at all but I understand why you said it takes so long to write and research each post, I have a new respect for what you do!”
That right there was the mic-drop moment of parenting, my friends!
We are pretty old school parents and we refuse to raise entitled self-centered brats. My firefighter husband sees the best and the worst of humanity. He won’t bring the stresses and horrors of his job home to us but every now and then he has shared stories with the kids now that they are teens, when they get a bit too big for their decision-making britches and think they know everything, and those stories of “what can happen when you make bad decisions” are eye-opening. Same with my job only much different and less hands on: I hear about the heartwarming stories of dog lovers going above and beyond for their dogs, and I hear the tragic “what the hell is wrong with people” stories that stick with you and make you wonder what could cause such evil.
For our 14-year-old daughter to come up with those concepts and thoughts on animal abuse on her own and then say “I have a new respect for what you do” is an incredible feeling. It was hands down the most incredible mother’s day gift that I could have received.
One of the main focuses of my book and my blog is to encourage people to be compassionate dog owners. Putting yourself in your dog’s position is the Woof in Love, Laugh, Woof. I am not naive enough to think that I can change the entire world and make everyone loving and compassionate toward animals. But I do know one thing: our kids are listening to what we say.
Our kids are among those who we can impact with lessons about being kind to dogs and to all animals. They are the next generation of dog owners and will use the lessons they learned about pet care in the same way many of us learned from our own parents, so keep talking to them about topics like preventing animal abuse, being a responsible owner, why it is so important to do your research before getting any pet, making sure you make time in your life for your cats and dogs, and all of the other things that are so important in raising compassionate human beings. It can make a difference, it will make a difference, and we are already making a difference.