Driving my high school and middle school children to school one morning this week, I was behind a van with this bumper sticker: Wag More. Bark Less. Being an animal lover and one who is very involved in dog rescue, I smiled as I thought of the image behind it. But more importantly, it made me stop in my mental tracks. As we had been getting ready that morning, struggling to get to school on time (an ongoing challenge in my household), I realized how much I had been “barking” and how little I had been “wagging” as I ushered my children through their morning.
If we think about the hours we spend during our day, how much do we wag versus bark? How much do we share joy and excitement with the people around us, versus cussing or complaining? Some people are admittedly much better than others. I wag a lot on days we don’t have to get ready for school, and seem to bark a lot on these hurried days when we must be out the door by 6:30 a.m. with everyone fed and dressed, and backpacks filled with the pertinent documents!
But the bumper sticker reminded me to get into my Interested Observer mode and recognize how much I held the key to my emotional response to the rushing we had been doing that morning. I had a choice not to devolve into a complaining mother, sighing and getting aggravated at my children as they came out the door late to get to school. I had the option, even in the midst of the chaos, to wag and smile. They needed to get to school on time, but I could usher them along with a different attitude. Those of you who are dog lovers will connect to how a dog, no matter how abused in its past, will often have a wag and a lick for the person who comes along and gives them a good home.
Why can dogs and other animals bounce back from difficulty, but as humans we hold on to our frustration, anger and impatience and won’t let a smile emerge from our lips when we want to show the other person just how irritated we are at their behavior? And yet, I’ve found that sometimes the best way to bring myself back to a positive state, or to break a tension, is to laugh in the middle of my own frustration, to view what I am doing and realize how silly and unnecessary it is.
I’ve had times where I was in a “stand-off” with one of my kids over something and we’re starting to dig our heels in, then someone will inadvertently laugh or make a joke and we are both laughing at our own silliness. It gives us the chance to look at the impasse a bit more objectively and without so much negative emotion.
And think about this as we go throughout our day – isn’t it a wonderful experience to be somewhere and someone you don’t know wags at you: They smile, they greet you openly or they just say “Hello”? It’s hard to walk away without a smile on my face when someone does this for me.
I actually made up a little sign for my computer: “Wag More. Bark Less.” so I could be reminded of the importance of this theme. Often as I type, I have my four dogs (and several cats) snoring nearby, so it makes it a little easier for me to remember how easy it is to bask in the enjoyment of life, rather than barking at all of the little things that intrude upon our day.
Try it this week – see how much you can perfect your wag in the midst of trouble and silence your bark when there is really nothing you’d like to do more!