Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
In the dark ages BC (before children), I was a dog trainer. It was not my profession, but my hobby. Still, I was certified by the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, taught classes two nights a week and trained my own dogs the other two. Like I said, it was before kids so I could be away from home every night and no one really cared. I loved teaching puppy classes. They were so exuberant, the owners so eager and exhausted at the same time. We worked half the class and played half the class as socialization was just as important as learning to mind. I spent most of my time saying, “Loosen up your leash!” as owners thought that to control their puppy, they needed to keep a choke hold on the dog. I tried to teach the humans who were teaching their dogs that the best way to learn was to show them what was expected, then, allow them a chance to do it right before giving them a quick correction back into place followed by tons of praise. Novice classes were more structured as it was there that the now mature dogs learned to work without a leash listening to voice commands only. In that class, the dreaded words were “drop your leash,” as owners tested whether or not their dog could be trusted to obey with no physical restraint to control them. We started off with long leashes and progressed to short pieces of cord that could be snatched if needed. The dogs did not know that they were leashed; the correction would come so fast and be over before they knew where it came from. Eventually, they could do all the basic exercises, heel quickly or slowly, make turns, circles and corners and come when called, all without a leash to guide them. On Saturday, oldest son graduates from college. Four years went by fast as we progressed from standing and staring at his freshman dorm room for one last look to booting him out of the car at midnight and making a run for it his sophomore year. In the last two years, he has only been home for holidays. He has done well. Not in all areas as he is making some choices I wish were different, but he is twenty two now. It is not my life but his. In a sense, I am graduating too. I am now the mom of an adult. An adult who will (hopefully soon! Recession you know) have a full time job, health insurance and a home of his own. We’ve been working towards this day for a long time. We started out with a tight leash, but this week, it is time for me to drop that leash and let him go. I can only trust this promise found in Proverbs. He may stray, but eventually, even though my hands are off the leash, he will return to what he has been taught.