No matter how many fun toys, interesting books or cute stuffed animals my son has, there seems to be one “toy” that he loves more than any other. It isn’t his Little People Amusement Park or his Batman Race Car. It’s not his cement mixer or foam building blocks. His favorite toy doesn’t even belong to him.
It’s the dog’s food.
That’s right, that shiny metallic bowl in the kitchen that sits on the floor filled with those brown and red kibbles that are so interesting. So irresistible are they that my son insists on picking them up and depositing them in his mouth.
Doors can be closed, stairs gated off, cabinets childproofed. But dog food — that is left out in the open and defenseless. If my son is being quiet, there is a good chance he is in the dog food. If he is running, most likely it’s the dog food he is running for.
The immediate impulse is to shriek and say, “NO,” or “PUT THAT DOWN.” But let’s be real, the kid is 13 months old. I can’t exactly ground him.
I also can’t just pull him away and tell him to leave it alone. I can’t take away his beloved dog food and replace it with nothing — what does that teach him other than he can’t have this cool thing?
So the tactic has become redirection. The art of redirecting his interest in the dog food to something else in hopes that he will find the new object more interesting and eventually leave the dog food alone on his own.
I’m no expert on parenting. I have a stack of parenting books and haven’t cracked one open in about two months. So in the long run, this may not work, but it seems to be worth a try.
Redirection to my son means replacing something good with something great, and is really just to keep him from crying and to keep me sane. But for me, it means something a little different.
I’m a worrier, easily frustrated and a bit of a stress ball. And you can ask just about anyone and they will tell you that I have become something of a grumpy (insert naughty word) in the past year. Truth be told, trying to be a father, employee, homeowner, friend, family man, responsible adult and handyman has taken its tole. Some of this I have shared in this blog, some I have unleashed on those around me, and a lot of it I have internalized in all those unhealthy ways that don’t really work.
So, I have been trying to use the technique of redirection on myself.
In my head there is always the “life sucks” movie montage playing. It’s a continuous loop of all the things I can’t control, wish were different or fear for the future of. I can choose to focus on this and let it control my life. I can let it suck the joy out of each and every day before they even start. I can even focus on this so much that I completely shut down, push everyone away and burn my life to the ground.
But who wants to live like that? So I am choosing to try and redirect away from this to the good stuff. Rather than focus on how much work sucks this week, I am focusing on the great trip to Sugarloaf I recently took and the time I will be spending with my son soon. Rather than focusing on how much putting rails on my deck will cost I am focusing on how nice it will be when I’m out there manning the BBQ while my son is running around in the summer sun. Instead of focusing on how stressful and time consuming my job is, I choose to be thankful for the opportunity to have a job where I can lead and be creative.
I have been trying this redirection approach for about a month and though I still have my moments (some days I have several), I feel better. I feel better about my family and the direction I am taking in life. I feel energized about projects that I have been dreading. I feel blessed to have the son I have instead of being burdened by the responsibilities of parenting.
Putting this out there to you doesn’t feel like a cry for help, but more an affirmation that everything is going to be OK. Life is going to continue to happen and I will take it all step by step, work hard when I have to and enjoy the time that I get in return. Because just like my son, I, too want to be distracted by something better. I want to be able to recognize the truly wonderful things in life… And I want my son to stay out of the dog food.