Ever since we were able to reincorporate dogs back into our home well over three years ago, daily walks are a part of my life. When I had my first dog, Kisses (may she rest in peace), I walked that dog all over Wrigleyville. As my family expanded and we moved to the suburbs, my daily walks with her continued weather permitting. I was no longer able to walk her in freezing temps once I had my oldest son to worry about. She promptly let me know she missed her walks by pooping in the house. She had a particular fondness for our dining room area rug. However, on sunny days when I could actually find the road beneath the snow drifts, we would walk. When I found out my youngest was allergic to her and she had to be relocated to my in-laws, I took her on a long walk to say my goodbyes to her. Five long years later, my youngest finally outgrew his dog allergy. I’m so thankful to have had three bonus years with Kisses back in our home along with her bonded mate, Max. He came to live with us too because he was so attached to Kisses.
Even though I consider daily walks with Max a blessing, there are the days when I’m not feeling it. Sometimes it can get a little monotonous. These are the times I grab my headphones and listen to music or a talk show. This helps but what is even more helpful is company. Having someone to chat with makes the steps fly by. When Kisses was alive, my husband was a willing companion, but now, he doesn’t enjoy it as much. Kisses really was ‘his’ dog and she had a lot more energy than Max. I think he misses her and her energy. Also Max sometimes takes 20 minutes to go 20 feet. Okay, it’s not that bad, but sometimes it feels that bad. So, how does my husband problem solve this? He delegates. He has my oldest son be his stand-in and mostly this works really well. My oldest is a talker. We have extremely interesting and varied conversations. The topics can range from the Cubs, college football stats, Star Wars and what it means to be growing up. I never know how much of the serious topics he soaks in, but he at least pauses politely while I chatter on. When my deep talks get too much, he immediately reverts to reciting sports stats and that’s when I know to back off. I feel this time with him is special. It has helped our relationship grow and expand in many positive ways.
This got me thinking. Here I have this wonderful opportunity to connect with my oldest son, but what about my youngest? He absolutely loathes walking. He often tries to tell me that he has never built up walking endurance. This is hard to believe coming from a kid who can run all day long on a soccer field. I’m not buying it. Yet, every time I attempt to include him on a walk, he has such a horrible attitude that it winds up being zero fun. I had kind of let go of my dream of a ‘walk and talk’ with him.
One day as my oldest was on his way to the gym with my husband, I took a chance and asked my youngest to go for a walk. I decided I would attempt a different approach. I would let him pick the topic of discussion and we would stick with it no matter what. He chose Minecraft. I’ve never heard him talk so much in my life. I now know details upon details of all things Minecraft. I didn’t totally understand all of what he was saying, but I didn’t interrupt when he was on a roll. I made sure to ask lots of questions, too. He was absolutely lit up from the inside. It was the best walk we’d ever had.
This was my takeaway: it doesn’t matter what you talk to your kids about as long as you take the time to find out what interests them. Even if it isn’t your favorite topic, by asking and learning about what matters to them, you show them that they matter to you. Be patient, be consistent and listen with all your heart. Now, that’s a step in the right direction.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent