When I came home from the gym this morning, my dog, Obi, was literally jumping for joy. He’s always so happy to see me. He didn’t care that I had nothing for him or that I was sweaty and un-showered. My teens, on the other hand, are never excited to see me unless I’m returning home from the grocery store or they want money. Even then, there are few signs of excitement — maybe a half smile or actual words instead of mutters.
Every time I feed my dog, he is thankful and appreciative. He gobbles up his food and never complains about eating the same thing every meal. He licks his lips and is satisfied.
Meanwhile, my teenagers constantly complain about my cooking, telling me there’s no food in the house as they stand in front of the open fridge, wasting precious electricity. They are picky and don’t appreciate any of the efforts it takes to keep a family of four fed. I’m constantly running to the grocery store, hauling in groceries, making food, and cleaning up the kitchen.
My dog is content sitting on my lap watching television. He loves jumping in the car for a ride and going for his daily walk, which is the highlight of his day.
My kids hate all the shows I watch, I have to beg and bribe them to go anywhere with me, and I think they’d faint if I asked them to for a walk with me. Instead, they want to know when I’m going to the grocery store (again), if I can pick them up some fast food on the way home, and remind me no one watches television anymore and we need to upgrade our WiFi because ours is too slow.
Obi appreciates my affection. He likes to have his belly scratched and his shoulders rubbed, and sometimes he stands against my legs and leans into me. He wants to be close to me, and it’s not because he’s trying to butter me up for a new dog bed or toy. It’s because he genuinely enjoys the closeness, companionship, and bond we have.
Trying to get my kids to hold still long enough to hug them is a struggle. They squirm away from me like I am trying to hurt them. If I ever try to give them a kiss, they move their head away from me so fast, I swear one of these days, someone is going to get whiplash. They just want to get away from me as quickly as possible.
Obi is proud when we walk down the street, go to the park, or venture into the pet store. He likes being seen with me and is never embarrassed. He’s patient if we stop and chat with someone else and never declines a social invitation just because I will be there.
When I take my kids to a store, they try not to be associated with me. I’m not allowed to talk with them or let anyone know they are my kids, and God forbid I slip and accidentally call them “honey” or “sweetie” in public. When I drop them off at school, they get out of the car as quickly as possible. If I stop and talk with someone I know while we are running errands, I get sighs, the evil eye, and complaints about why I take so long when we pile back into the car.
Having a dog while having three teens has a lot of benefits — they’re old enough to help out and they love that dog just as much as I do, which is wonderful to see — but honestly, being appreciated by someone who lives here is the best part.
I don’t think there’s anything I could ever do to Obi that would make him embarrassed to belong to me. I’m pretty sure he will always appreciate the affection and meals I give him, and he is genuinely so happy to see me when I return from the bathroom.
I sometimes need to feel appreciated. So, if you have been feeling unseen by your teenagers, I recommend getting a dog.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.