What was I thinking?

Trust Me, Be Careful What You Promise Your Kid On Their Birthday

When I made the promise, ten seemed so far off. Not anymore.

Photo of a young family with two kids being all cheerful and playful because they are celebrating th...
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I think my oldest was five when it first came up. He heard that someone in his class had just got a new puppy, and the begging began. His father and I explained that we weren’t ready — someday, we told him. But “someday” wasn’t quite good enough. He needed a concrete answer, something to count down toward. And after a lot of peppering we decided: “When you are ten,” my husband and I declared.

It wasn’t a totally random answer. It made sense: that gave us five long years to prepare for the dog's arrival. Five years to transform our chaotic, messy, exhausting life into something significantly more calm, organized, and perfectly suitable for a new puppy. Well, spoiler alert. Five years moves fast, and now we are approaching his tenth birthday. And what I thought would be a nice puppy environment is actually still an exhausting, messy, overwhelming circus of two parents, four kids, and a whole lot of chaos. So who is going to tell my son?

Because in case you don’t know what happens when you tell a child that they will be getting what they want in “x” amount of time, they remember it — forever. Their mental countdown starts immediately and every day, month, and year thereafter they will remind you of just how much longer it us until the thing is happening. This year it’s been a lot of, “I am going to be 10 this year. You know what that means!” Ugh, the thought of going back on my word and disappointing him feels awful. But adding a puppy into our current circumstance feels like a big mistake. Because life feels different than I expected.

First, the idea of my future 10-year-old son’s capabilities are proving to be very different from his actual (almost) 10-year-old capabilities. I mean, when I threw out the age of 10, I was the naive mother of a five year old. I thought once he reached double digits, he would basically be a self-sufficient roommate, fully capable of all pet responsibilities. But since I still have to remind him every day to put on deodorant, tie his shoes, and zipper his coat, I feel pretty confident that the majority of the #doggycare will fall on me. And I am not sure I have the mental or physical bandwidth for that.

I also did not factor a two-year-old toddler into the equation, either. I think I figured my kids would all be out of diapers, old enough to avoid being a total safety hazard to puppy-life. I am worried that the energetic, nipping, wild disposition of a puppy might not pair well with my aggressive, low-to-the-ground, not-great-listening little one. In hindsight, what I should have told my son was, “We can get a dog when the youngest kid in our family is five.” Oops.

But maybe I’m overthinking this. Perhaps, just like there is never a perfect time to add another baby to your family, there isn’t one for adding a dog, either. And maybe feelings of anxiety and unpreparedness are unavoidable with any big change or addition to a family. And while a puppy could really rock and upend a calm and steady family, maybe he/she would fit right into the madness of my house. Maybe it would teach my 9-year-old to be more responsible, and help my 2-year-old to be a little more gentle and careful. Maybe there is a chance we’re ready and could handle it.

I guess I’ll take these next few months to think it over. I will do some dog research and try my best to arm myself with all the information necessary to make a decision, knowing quite well that google can’t really help me here. And at the end of the day (or his ninth year) I will ultimately listen to my gut. I have trusted it to help me create this amazingly wonderful family so far, and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.