Sunday, April 22, 2007

Good Cop, Bad Cop

I don't know about you guys, but when I was growing up, my parents were clearly divided into 'good cop, bad cop' camps when it came to parenting. My mom was the one who got things done (unfortunately, this means she was aka 'the bad cop'). When things weren't right, she set them straight. She'd let you know what was on her mind, and on the (blissfully rare) occasions when one of us girls was misbehaving, we were sure to hear about it from mom.

My dad, on the other hand, was by default (or by strategic planning on his part, perhaps) the 'good cop'. He rarely, if ever, made a fuss, and he only enforced discipline reluctantly, at the insistence of my ma, who was tired of always playing the bad cop role. I see now that his style of parenting was the more passive-aggressive and frustrating of the two (especially for my mom, who inevitably ended up coming across as more strict, less patient, and over-reactive), but growing up, all I knew was that the 'good cop' seemed to do a better job of avoiding conflict, and I was drawn to that, because if anything, I didn't like conflict.

Anyway, looking after Robertina for the past 3 weeks has taught me a lot about parenting. (I know that dogs in no way = babies, but nonetheless, petsitting in many ways resembles babysitting.) For example, it seems I'm neither a good cop nor a bad cop. I've tried to be a good cop, rewarding Robertine with treats and pats for every little thing she does, but instead of gaining her utmost trust and respect, she's given me this sly little look that says I've been duped. Well, then. I've tried to be a bad cop, commanding her to sit and stay, and tugging a bit at her leash when she (occasionally) growls at other dogs. She doesn't listen to me. Unless of course, I give her treats-- in which case, she's distracted for a couple of seconds before getting into mischief again. Curses.

See how she pulls? You have no idea how long we had to try 'posing' for this photo before she actually stood still enough to be in the same frame as me!

So I'm kind of a wishy-washy cop, trying hard to be everything at once but ending up being nothing particularly special in the parenting department. Marty, on the other hand, has managed to blend the good cop and the bad cop parts into a seamless whole, and let me tell you: he's reaping the rewards. Robertine literally worships the ground he walks on! She listens to his every command, even when they're merely whispered to her. She's affectionate and obedient, playful and demure: the perfect dog in every way.

The feminist in me hates myself for even thinking it, but maybe Robertine is so drawn to 'alpha male' Marty simply because he's a man. Maybe my voice isn't deep enough or serious-sounding enough for her to accord it much clout. Maybe she feels more protected by his side than she does by mine, especially because I'm always talking to her in a ridiculous sing-song and giving her treats, rather than making her heel and shooing other dogs away. Whatever it is, I'm feeling a teensy bit jealous. Since when does the disciplinarian parent get all the love?? Since when do the bad cops come out on top?? Sigh...

See how relaxed and not-on-a-leash she is? She loves Marty-- and who could blame her? Just remember, Robertina: You can be the girlfriend, but I still get to be the wife.

This isn't to say that Robertine completely ignores or hates me. She just knows that I'm much more of a pushover than Marty will ever be. And if I can't put my foot down for a dog, how would I ever be an effective parent? Well, the good news (for me!) is that another pregnancy-free cycle has just gone by, so at least I won't have to test out my cop roles in real life for another little while. No hermaphrodite prophet for me just yet! Thank goodness for that. No, seriously.

1 comment:

Delia said...

Well, from what I've heard it has nothing to do with good cop/ bad cop, but rather with pack instincts. She probably sees Marty as the Alpha Male and, with all due respect, she doesn't recognize you as the Alpha Female, but rather as a sister or equal with whom she can do whatever she wants... And, as I found out with my own dog, it has nothing to do with who feeds her - my mom feeds my dog, and she gets the same treatment. I, on the other hand, without even being present on a daily basis, am the Alpha female for my dog. So, she listens to me. But yes, she worships Gabi. Hm, so there might be some gender issues here after all... :))))