Today I would like to introduce Maggie Mollie Mostly Muppet Mighty-Mop Moore. You may call her Maggie.
Maggie is sixteen weeks old. Maggie is a labradoodle. A labradoodle, is, obviously, a dog breed created in a lab. Maggie traces her ancestry back to the Stanford University genetics department, when, after a notorious holiday party, pie-eyed post-docs spliced genetic material from Phyllis Diller onto a Swiffer. The breed quickly came to be prized for traits like bravery (plunging intrepidly into mobs of adoring kindergartners) and hardiness (an indefatigable capacity to showcase fabulous styling product).
Maggie came to us from a breeder in Monaco and arrived at our house via Gulfstream G5 and stretch Hummer. She has been coddled, swaddled, and cuddled since the day she was born.
Which brings me to the subject of hypocrisy. Because you see, we are a rescue animal family. Every animal we have previously owned (three dogs and one cat) has come from a shelter, or has come to us as a stray. Our current dog, Rudy, is the best dog ever in the history of everything. (This has been certified by God, so take your own dog’s fraudulent claims to this title elsewhere.) I came home one day to find Rudy asleep on our side porch. I did not realize his awesomeness right away. Rudy doesn’t shimmer with focus-group cuteness. Rudy resembles a well-used pig cooker with a tail like a Viagra side effect. I put “found dog” signs on trees all over the neighborhood. Three days later Hurricane Isabel roared through and knocked down every single one of those trees. That was the aforementioned God, telling me that Rudy was the best dog in the world, and as usual, God turned out to be right.
Besides, it’s virtuous to be a rescue animal family. The pet world is filled with rejects and castaways who need good homes. Having a rescue animal is like composting: You’re working with the leftovers, but one of the side benefits is that you get to feel a do-gooder’s smugness. So, our stance? We have always been a rescue animal family, and we always will be a rescue animal family.
Except that now we won’t be.
It doesn’t even matter how we came to acquire Maggie. What matters is that her acquisition makes us hypocrites vis-à-vis our rescue animal stance. But I’ve discovered a gnarly truth since becoming a father: It’s impossible to parent with anything like self-awareness without bumping into our own hypocrisies from time to time. Do as I say and not as I do! Isn’t a cliché for nothing, after all.
I am known in my house as the Prince of Darkness. Not for my evil heart (they have another nickname for that part of me) but for my incessant campaign to get my family to TURN OFF THE !%$#&%! LIGHTS when they leave a room. I have tried to convince them on the merits of conservation and thrift. I have instituted monetary fines. I have even gone so far as to make them wear an “I Hate the Earth” t-shirt to school when they break this sacrosanct rule.
So it is with no small delight (de-light, get it?) That my children periodically take me by the hand and lead me to my office to bathe themselves in soft incandescent light turned golden with hues of moral comeuppance.
And when the issues get more complicated, the specter of hypocrisy lurks in even more insidious ways. While Dena and I both drink, and feel that modeling responsible attitudes towards alcohol is useful, it’s nonetheless a topic with many stinging tails. Our son Ben is sixteen. Drinking and driving is a hot topic. So if we communicate an iron-clad, zerotolerance prohibition against drinking and driving, can I have one beer at a restaurant and then drive my family home? The point could be reasonably argued along legalistic lines (I’m legal to drink; Ben is not.) But an equally strong case could be made that actions speak louder than words. What’s the model? What’s the message? No matter where you come out on the question, there’s a gotcha in there somewhere.
When you really become aware of it, hypocrisy pops up all over the place. Whether it’s eating all of your vegetables or premarital sex, we all have places where we don’t practice what we preach.
Does this make us bad parents? Bad people? I suggest that it makes us human beings, raising children in a complicated world. Far fewer things are black-andwhite than we would like to believe. Honesty about the times our actions don’t match up with our words is one avenue into conversations about values.
So, as we come to terms with our latest turn of hypocrisy, Maggie is coming to terms with the cruel realities of life with the riffraff, like dry kibbles, and having to hang out on the floor!
And what about Rudy? He and I periodically escape to my office, where we close the door and ponder this rude interruption to our serenity. He gets extra attention and treats, as befits the best dog ever in the history of everything.
And sometimes, when we are done, we leave the lights on.