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"Train up a Puppy"

Our family was blessed this week with the most precious addition. I cannot imagine what being a grandmother will be like one day because in just a matter of hours I fell in love with this sweet pup and have swelled with pride watching my baby take care of her new little one. I know, it’s just a dog, but please look at that face!!

As Marklee has had to change up her daily routines and comforts to help acclimate Remi to his new home, I have thought back to what it was like to have little ones in our home. Now that they are young adults, I vaguely remember the sleepless nights, the potty training, and the worry when they started driving. But the thing that I do remember being the most concerned about was their spiritual foundation and how important it was to Mark and me that they learn to love Jesus at an early age. I also remember how we prayed about navigating their experiences “in the world” without letting them become “of the world.”

From the moment Marklee brought Remi home, she began to establish routines for him. She feeds him three times a day and takes him out every few hours to be certain that he learns where his bathroom is and isn’t. She plays with him regularly to help him to be sleepy when it’s bedtime. She sets boundaries for him in our home so he knows where he can and cannot go. Perhaps the biggest hurdle, and one we are still working on, is introducing Remi to our “big dogs”, who have been a part of our family for 7 years. Marklee knows that she can’t just plop this four-pound baby into the floor and let him run with two, forty-pound, fully grown dogs. Remi would have no knowledge of how to protect himself and the dogs would put him in situations he’s not ready to be a part of (like thinking of him as a snack!)

Often, in my job as a school psychologist, parents ask me about when to let their children begin to do certain things. “When should they get a cell phone?” “When should they start being left alone when their girlfriend/boyfriend is visiting?” “When can I let them play outside alone or leave them alone while I run errands?” These are tough parenting questions and often my answer is not super helpful because honestly, it depends. All children are different and their maturity levels are different so there really aren’t cut off ages. The key is to know your child well, to be alert of your child’s friends and try to get to know them well, and to frequently find moments where you can catch them in a talking mood to talk about the tough stuff. One thing I do caution parents of, however, is that as a society, I believe we are definitely making some big mistakes with technology and putting things we don’t mean to in the hands of children who are not ready for what they have access to. Parents MUST monitor the technology use very closely to protect their children from people and things that they can access far too easily. Just like it would make no sense for Marklee to throw Remi into the world of the grown up dogs, children and young teenagers aren’t ready to live in a world made for grown ups and should not be exposed to those things too soon.

Having said that, there will be a day when we do want the dogs to be able to live in harmony together, so we will work daily to acclimate them to one another slowly and will teach them all how to do that. Mark and I had a philosophy with our children that we wanted to insulate them, but not isolate them from the things of this world. We believe that being called to be salt and light means that we have to go into places that are without salt and light, so just hiding our kids away and always trying to protect them from things that were considered "worldly" would only lead to a bigger problem in adulthood. So, just as Marklee is helping Remi to learn hew routines and discipline in the home, it was our hope that by making Jesus a daily part of our lives and by helping them to learn scripture and to strive for holiness, that they would have the armor needed to withstand the difficulties when faced with them. If Marklee were to wait until Sunday of each week to expose Remi to things he needs to learn, it is unlikely that he would develop the tools he needs to grow up and to handle his world. Yet, often, that is what we do as parents. We believe that by taking our children to church once a week that they will have all the tools they need. We see their spiritual growth as the job of the pastor or children’s pastor and leave all of the instruction and modeling to them. But the reality is that parents are the first and best spiritual teacher. It is by their leadership and their example that children will develop a spiritual foundation. The once a week gathering is a super important part of the routine, but it can’t be the only spiritual discipline a child ever sees.

Parenting is a tough business, and we have made MANY mistakes (and continue to make many mistakes) and you will too. But being intentional about what your child comes to understand at an early age is the “normal routine” in your home will help to build that insulation that he or she will need as they mature. Every generation faces parenting difficulties, but perhaps none is as great as the one that has surfaced through having the world wide web at the fingertips of toddlers. Be mindful, be aware, set boundaries, and be intentional. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Remi already follows Marklee from room to room because he knows she’s his momma. He realizes that she loves him more than anyone else and he wants to be where she is at all times because he feels safe knowing she’s there. Oh that I would look to my Heavenly Father with the same kind of innate desire, because I need Him every hour. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Who knew there was so much spiritual application I could learn from watching a new puppy? And forgive me for the flooding social media posts that are likely to occur over the next few weeks. He’s just too precious not to share with you!!


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