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The Puppy Peed and I Learned How to Set a Boundary

You might have assumed that you were going to read an article about how to train a puppy and, who could blame you? However, this is not "10 Steps to The Perfect Puppy" or "Puppy Training Made Easy." Nope, this is about me. Mom, Wife, Woman, Friend, Sister, and Daughter, and how my puppy, Fergus, peeing around the house as he ran away taught me more about myself than the stack of self-help books on my nightstand or the hours spent in therapy ever could.


Here's the scene...


Husband and three sons chilling out on our supremely comfy, oversized L-shaped sectional placed strategically in front of our, also oversized, flat-screen TV. All 8 feet up on the ottoman centered in-between said couch and TV. It was football Sunday, and at our house that meant a full day of back-to-back games and, of course, snacks. Lots and lots of snacks! The boys had made their game-day requests and I had begun to tackle their menu.


  • Nachos (not just chips and dip lest you get the wrong idea, these were the Nachos Grande version; meat, cheese, guac, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, etc.)

  • chicken wings (homemade, 2 versions; buffalo and Old bay)

  • and, of course, homemade chocolate chip cookies.


It all started out hunky-dory. I laid out all of my ingredients, set up staging areas for each recipe, and was about to assemble the dough for the cookies when I noticed that all of the breakfast dishes were still in the sink.


"No problem," I thought to myself, "I'll quickly put them in the dishwasher and I'll be good to go."


I am sure if you are a mom, you have already predicted the next roadblock because we all know that the dishwasher was full. Of clean dishes. Because, of course. So, I am now losing my light-hearted, "I've got this", happy to serve mood, and a little bit of annoyance and resentment have crept in.


I shake it off, empty the dishwasher, put the dirty dishes away and I'm ready to roll. Except, instead of hitting the lock lever on the mixer, I accidentally hit the mix lever and flour goes everywhere, literally. I look over at the couch, no one moves. No offers to help. I am no longer happy to serve. I am serving through clenched teeth and bad thoughts. I am sending visual daggers to the four most important men in my life. This does not seem to register, so I cook on.


Best Lesson in Setting Boundaries
Fergus the Puppy

This is where you meet Fergus. See that face? He's ridiculous, right? I was obsessed with him and was in the thick of house-training him on this particular Sunday. He was doing quite well. Most of the time. The thing was, he REALLY wanted to get it right. When he began having an accident, his instinct was to run away from it, in shame. All over the house. So, of course, that's what happens next. Fergus pees. All over the house.


If you think this is when the guys all got up to help, sorry to disappoint you. They didn't. I stopped the nacho making, chicken wing baking, and cookie assembling and got down on my hands and knees to start cleaning up the widespread mess. But, I did not do this gracefully. No, I did not. I began stomping, huffing, and finally, slamming doors around the kitchen. This is what finally got the attention of my husband, but not the kind of attention I was seeking. This was mad attention, like "what the hell is wrong with you" kind of attention. He gave me an incredulous look, said something along the lines of "what the hell is wrong with you" and I just blew. I yelled back, threw some more things around, and stomped upstairs in a fit of tears and rage, slammed the bedroom door, and dramatically flung myself onto my bed.


I sobbed, yelled into my pillow, and thought seriously about getting in my car and driving away to some new location and starting a new life. One that did not involve waiting on everyone hand and foot. That would teach them, I thought. This pity party had gone on for about 10 minutes or so when I was interrupted by a new intrusive thought.

"It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me."

It was like getting hit with a thunderbolt. A sudden realization crept in that my husband and my boys were not the issue. I was. Me and my lousy, often non-existent boundaries were to blame. I could have said no to the requests. I could have said yes, but I'll need help. I could have asked for one of them to empty the dishwasher, to put the dirty dishes away, to help me clean up the flour, and of course to take care of the dog pee. But I didn't. I did none of those things. Instead, in an effort to continue to be the "good guy", the "best mom ever", etc. I said nothing, but I continued through resentment and gritted teeth, and eventually completely lost my cool on all of them. My need to do it all and be seen in some amazing light prevented me from being honest and from asking for help.


What I learned that day is that speaking up for what you need and setting healthy boundaries are actually the kindest, most loving thing you can do for the people you care about. I had to let go of the need to be needed and to be seen in a certain way to feel good about myself. Doing everything for everyone while continually putting myself and my needs on the back burner was a recipe for disaster. Giving through gritted teeth and resentment is not kind and it is not loving. Setting boundaries like this can take courage and a lot of letting go, but ultimately, everyone will adjust and you will have better relationships to show for it!


Want help learning how to set boundaries with your family? Let's chat!



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