Never Underestimate the Value of a Good Hello

December 4th, 2008 by Janet

I learned a fair amount about parenting from my “firstborn,” a larger-than-life golden retriever. Perhaps the most important lesson she taught me was to never underestimate the value of a good hello. Every day after work, I would come home to a whirling dervish of a dog. I soon learned that how I handled those first few moments of togetherness could make or break the quality of my (our!) evening.

A quick ruffling of her head with a “Hey there, Sandra McJean!” meant I’d be in for a long evening of “Stop chewing on the armoire!” and “Why are you barking?!” On the other hand, if I gave Sandy 10 minutes of undivided attention upon my arrival, it made all the difference. Given a little play time, some serious petting, and encouraging words, she’d be good to go for the rest of the night. When I became mother to my first daughter, I recognized the drill! Sure enough, the tone for an entire evening had a lot to do with how those first few minutes were managed. Did my daughter feel seen and heard-truly welcomed and full of my love for her, or did she feel overlooked and insignificant, leaving her empty and wanting more, more, MORE!?

I was reminded of all this last weekend when I took my new dog, Max, to his first obedience class. Not surprisingly, first on the docket was teaching our dogs to “focus.” For dog and owner, the world stops, and it’s just the two of you, giving each other undivided attention. Without this first step-this preparation- there will be no “sit, stay, heel” (at least not easily).

It’s all in the preparation, be it in growing happy dogs or independent sons and daughters who contribute to making the world a better place. If we want to enjoy our children’s company more, we’d be wise to consider the quality of our “prep” time.

This doesn’t mean we need to provide our children with hours on end of our undivided attention on a daily basis. But it does mean spending important time with them every day-time when the world stops, and it’s just the two of you. And, as Sandra McJean, golden retriever extraordinaire, taught me many years ago, there’s nothing like a heartfelt hello to start the day, afternoon, or evening off on the right foot.

This holiday season may your family be blessed with uninterrupted time together, delighting in each other’s company and feeling truly welcomed after time apart.

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