You may have heard or read some of my story about how I started a new career after more than 8 years as a stay at home mom. What I haven’t shared, until now, is the writing that got me started.

A short recap, in case you haven’t heard it: my return to work began with a Facebook status update from a high school friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. When he posted that he was looking for freelance writers, I responded, tentatively, at first. The essay below is the writing sample I sent him.

This post contains the writing that started it all.

Two years later (almost to the day) I am grateful for how God took seemingly random opportunities and wove them together in my life to bring me to where I am now. Thanks for being a part of my story.

My husband and I had our first experience of parenting when our energetic Dalmatian joined the family.  Newly married, first time homeowners, and fresh out of graduate school, having Bronte gave us the opportunity to learn about working together, especially in the area of discipline.

My affection for Bronte surprised me.  Until I found a job, I was a stay at home Mom to our dog.  I loved taking him to open spaces to see him run, taking him for drives and letting him hang his head out the window to breathe in all the delicious air.  I loved letting him stretch out next to us in bed for a snuggle.  During those fun and happy times, Bronte was a model dog, never better behaved.

Contained at home, Bronte’s naughty side emerged. My strategy for misbehavior?  Treats.  Oh, Bronte, you’re chewing on my wedding shoes.  Here, a nice Milk Bone for you.  Oh, my, you’re tearing stuffing out of the couch again.  Here, have these meat scraps from dinner.  Jumping all over our guests?  Bronte, I have a nice chewy rawhide for you.  All of this appeasing was at best a good way of distracting our rambunctious pup from his misdeeds.  At worst, I was training him to misbehave more.  I was no good at a mean voiced “Bad dog” or at crating Bronte when he got into trouble. 

My husband proved to be much more adept at discipline; he was more consistent in praising Bronte when he was well behaved and correcting him when he was not.  He was not afraid of using a rolled up newspaper for a firm smack, and his even-handed direction counterbalanced my cartoonish propensity to reward our dog’s bad behavior.

While waiting for the arrival of our first child, almost six years later, Eric reminded me of my early attempts at discipline.  We discussed different discipline philosophies and strategies.  Some of the finer points we agreed on: 

  • We would not send quarreling children to their rooms to watch a movie together as a “time out.”
  • We would not buy bubble gum to dispense to a screaming child in the grocery store. 
  • We would not follow up wall scribbling with a gift of new crayons.
  • We would not offer ice cream to our daughter as a consolation for refusing to clean her room.

In reality, disciplining children is more nuanced than training a puppy.  I am grateful for a partner who provides consistency for the girls while helping me when we get into rough spots.  I like to think I have learned the fine line between using distractions with my children and reinforcing bad behavior with treats.

We always have a snack at the grocery store: cheese from the deli or a bagel from the bakery.  Everyone is happy and distracted while we shop, less likely to melt down at the check out counter.  If we’re having grown up company, I talk with the girls ahead of time about a fun activity they can do or appropriate conversation to share in, thus avoiding the child-equivalent of a puppy jumping all over our guests.

My favorite good behavior strategies are the ones I learned from Bronte.  The girls are happiest and behave best when they have plenty of wide open space to run around and are free to enjoy fresh air.  When we get too crazy at home, getting out is the best way to change everyone’s attitude, including my own.  And when all else fails, we can always tumble into bed for a warm snuggle.