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Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

About this blog: About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to share the good times and discuss the ...  (More)

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The favored child

Uploaded: Jan 22, 2014
I became aware that my family thinks I love the dog best when I received a Mother's Day card which read, "Happy Mother's Day from your favorite child?you know, the short hairy kid with a tail."

I am not sure how my family came to the conclusion that the dog is my favorite, but it is probably a result of the two-mile rule I subjected them to as children. With five children under the age of 12, I limited their activities to within a two-mile radius of our home, giving preference to those activities to which we could walk or bike. This eliminated horseback riding in Portola Valley, gymnastics in Mountain View, and travel teams, but since there are three community centers, a museum and zoo, an art center, an outdoor ice rink, a little league ball park, a children's theater, a library, and Stanford University within that radius, I didn't think anyone would suffer permanent damage by this geographical restriction for their after-school activities, lessons and camps.

When I brought the dog home, I assumed I would meet all his needs within this geographical zone as well. Much to my dismay, I tried class after class, but nothing was working for my puppy who, unlike my children, did not have a compliant, easy-going temperament. These classes were great for puppies who thrive in an off-leash class where they are free to run around and socialize with other puppies and owners, but my puppy was completely overwhelmed and behaved inappropriately. In desperation, I called a highly recommended trainer in Redwood City and within hours found my way to one of her classes, which had a more gradual, controlled method of socializing puppies, and I could immediately see this was the appropriate place to train my reactive puppy (and me).

For a few months I was able to hide from my family that I was driving the dog twice a week to puppy training classes in Redwood City. Eventually, however, they discovered that I had broken my unbreakable two-mile rule for the dog. Although this happened four years ago, my children have never let me forget this obvious sign of favoritism.

There are some things, however, that are probably more appropriately attributed to my imminent senility than to my preference for the dog. Although I never call my children by each other's names, I repeatedly call all my children, and particularly my younger son, by the dog's name, and vice versa, to the point where I wrote on the calendar to take my son to the vet.

On the other hand, my family may have some reasons to believe I prefer the dog. The dog is a pleasure to have around. He is always ecstatic to see me, enthusiastic about doing whatever I want, whether it be a walk or a nap, happily goes to bed on time, generates no laundry or cereal bowls in the sink, and he never complains about what I make him for dinner.

Maybe my kids should pay closer attention to the dog's behavior if they hope to gain most favored kid status!
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Selina, a resident of another community,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I love this post. i think the reason your children can only ascribe the "favored child" status to your dog is because you treat and love all of them equally. And, of course, I love that you are willing to drive the dog past the
"unbreakable" 2-mile zone. You can indulge him, just as he indulges you with his constant and loyal enthusiasm.

Posted by Debbie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Laughing out loud with my husband over your blog tonight! Your "two-mile rule" is such a good reminder of how much we have going so close to our homes in Palo Alto.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:25 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Selina,
Thanks for reading and commenting! Yes, the dog definitely indulges me. The kids say the dog only tolerates the rest of the family because I seem to like having them around!

Dear Debbie,
Thanks for laughing! That was only an abbreviated list of all that we have so close to home! Why am I ever on Hwy 101?

Posted by Your Son, a resident of Palo Alto Hills,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Hold on the dog complains about his dinner all the time! He doesn't like his kible he needs it specially prepared!

Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:17 pm

What a great and humorous post! I agree, a wonderful reminder of all of the opportunities we have so close to home.

Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 5:38 am

Big laugh out loud here, Sally, thank you! I am laughing even though I am barely awake. Returned home late after driving my own special dog to and from his special class. Sometimes it's an effort to find the right spot for those members of our family who can't ride bikes.

Posted by Erin, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 7:44 am

Completely relating to calling the kids by the dog's name. I do it all the time and I only have two kids. I actually don't think it shows favoritism, but perhaps the opposite. In my case, I'm used to yelling at/for the dog more, so when I actually yell for the kids, the dog's name often comes out. Sometimes I get so confused I just yell for all of them.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:22 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Your Son,
The dog lost his puppy pickiness about food about the time you left home. Not that I'm suggesting there is a connection or anything!

Hi CherylBac,
Thanks for reading and commenting. There are a lot of wonderful opportunities here and I was particularly appreciative of that since our babies hated riding in the car. I never had any of those infants that hit the car seat and fall asleep.
You do great research and make the effort to find and do all the best stuff around here. I'd love to see a post about your favorite things to do in a week with a 1 year old in PA/MP area. Maybe two posts as it might not all fit into one!

Hi LJ,
Thanks for the kind words. While it's an extra effort, everybody is happier when all family members' socializing and training needs are being met!

Hi Erin,
Yes, my mom used to just start at the top and call out the five names in sequence, regardless of whom she was trying to find.
I marvel at parents that choose names for all their kids that start with the same letter. I would probably never ever manage to call them by the own names if all the names started with the same sound.

Posted by GC, a resident of Community Center,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Hi Sally,

My father used to joke about naming his next dog "Hey You" to make it easier. There were 5 kids and lots of friends and cousins coming through the house growing up so you got called whatever person's name and did not worry about it... par for the course in large families.

Enjoyed your post....great title.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 26, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi GC,
Thanks for reading and commenting! It is good to hear that no one in your family took it personally when your names were randomly interchanged!
I'm remembering the Bob Newhart Show on TV in the 1980s. Bob ran an inn in Vermont, and his local hick neighbor introduces his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl. Naming kids the same name now seems like a very practical idea!

Posted by MT Nest, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jan 29, 2014 at 10:50 am

Ha ha, dog sports competitors (many of whom are empty nester women or childless) drive MILES to the "right trainer," "right" class, or to competitive events. In our increasingly urbanized area of escalating real estate values, it's hard to find a facility that caters to this sport. One in Redwood City closed down last year due to high rent. San Mateo Fairgrounds no longer is host to dog sports; will Santa Clara Co FG be next?
Many good trainers have moved out of the Bay area proper so they can keep their own dogs in a more dog-friendly piece of property.

I love your observations on this topic!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 29, 2014 at 11:15 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear MT Nest,
Thanks for reading and commenting. I am grateful that I'm not having to drive further than Redwood City to train!

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