Although seldom achieved, children have the ability to become well-respected citizens before the age of forty. Patience is one of the “well-respected” virtues best learned (or attempted to learn) at an early age.
Patience is golden: it gives the ability to mentally overcome certain anxieties, including the “rushed” feeling when you’re shoulder to shoulder in a crowded consumer battleground (a mall).
I have an extreme amount of patience and I owe it all to my older siblings.
There were many lessons and tests being the smaller, weaker sibling, but I learned the most from my brother.
Before I go any further, let me explain something: my parents are dog people. They’ve always had large breed hunting dogs (some had the hunting instincts, at least) and have always crate trained. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “crate training” refers to crating your animal at appropriate times throughout the day (never as punishment) and evening so the dog can learn your schedule, to have their own idea of a safe place, and overcome separation anxiety. Our crate would stay in the kitchen for the duration of training, usually for about three months, and the dog would go in during all meals and at night while we slept. It was a good lesson for my siblings and I—learning how to persevere through two sleepless weeks of howling and yipping made us appreciate how our parents “parented” us obnoxious, spitty, wailing babies (I was perfect though).
This story takes place about fifteen to sixteen years ago when we were finishing the three months of training our dog, Boo. That said, Boo recently passed away last year so I feel inclined to mention he grew up to be a very regal dog. He’d often sit at the edge of the water, close his eyes and feel the breeze lifting off the marsh. I like to believe he was writing poetry in those moments—but who knows.
Anyways, it was summertime and extremely hot. My mother was out running errands, my sister was at a friend’s, and the dogs were lazily basking in the sun (nearly trained Boo included). Meanwhile, my brother, Mick, and I were going about our business. He and I have always had a unique sibling-hood often resulting in mess and potential death.
You can see where this is going.
As a strange kid, I often crawled into small spaces to nap so I could feel like an animal (which is what I wanted to be when I grew up). During winter, I’d curl up next to the dogs and sleep in front of the fire to keep warm. Every chance I got, I’d try to become as similar to an animal as possible, assimilating into their lazy, lovable culture—to become one of the pack.
So, my brother and I had just finished lunch. I was exhausted. Whatever I had done in those few days must have been grueling because I was too tired for words. I crawled into the kennel and laid down.
He closed the grate.
We both laughed.
He left the room and ascended the three stories of our house to his room.
I called out his name but he couldn’t hear me.
I tried, tried and tried again to undo the rusted latches but my fingers were too weak. Honestly, the crate was probably twenty years old and I was only eight or nine. I couldn’t compete. I tried calling out again, but it was no use. I’m not one for tiring myself out when already exhausted, either. It was evident to me I couldn’t get out neither receive aid to get out until either Mick came downstairs or my mother came home. The way I saw it, I was tired, on a comfortable dog bed, and warm.
So, I did what any normal person would do: I took a nap.
Within a few moments of sleepy consciousness to readjust, I was asleep and dreaming of being an animal. About an hour went by before the pounding of my brother’s feet on the stairs, in unison with my mother’s feet ascending the entry steps, woke me.
The entry door opened. Mick’s pace was no match.
My mother walked into the kitchen and placed the groceries on the counter. At first she did not notice me because she was listening to Mick’s feet pounding down the last few steps.
“Mick?” she called concerned.
“Hey mom!” I cheerily yelled (I knew my brother was busted).
It took a moment before she realized I was in the kennel but, oh my, it was beautiful. My brother popped into the room, face red, my mom still trying to understand what the hell was going on.
It didn’t take long for my mother to realize Mick had locked me in the kennel, left the room and ultimately forgot about it until the threat of consequence and punishment was approaching.
What transpired next was the typical “too confused to deal with it” motherhood response:
“Um, don’t lock your sister in the kennel anymore…” annunciated as if questioning reality itself.
Later, once my father caught wind of the events, he had to act mad and give “a talking” to my brother. I know they have always laughed about it. Now that I am older, I wonder how many things they yelled at us for and then laughed about later…
I can’t wait to do the same to my children. Except, I’ll actually use a crate on them purposefully (they’re basically cribs with lids, what could go wrong?).
To summarize, the idiotic things my siblings and I did to each other (I was not too innocent, either) taught us the importance of patience and tolerance, something we carry into our adulthood and will pass on to our future generations.