Alpha and Omega

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“I am alpha dog, I am alpha dog, I am alpha dog…”

I have to keep saying it like a mantra: I am alpha dog. Why? Because in the past nine years, I’ve managed to give birth to not one, but four alpha dogs, and if the Discovery Channel has taught me anything, it’s that there can only be ONE.

When we got back from Fiji, the two fabulous, ultra-capable mothers with whom we left our brood both commented on how well those “dominate personalities” of theirs would serve them later in life. I took the well meaning comments as a euphamism for “hot to handle.” Yes, I know. My apologies.

No doubt, alpha dogs grow up to be the movers and the shakers of the world, but what about right now when they are still just pups? Still learning how to control their bravado?

This is zero problem for Paul. Paul is a natural born alpha. He easily inspires respect, admiration, and fear. I’m glad they have him because I find myself using the cop out, “oooh, I’m telling Dad!” all too often. But I know that does nothing to promote my own alpha dog status. My alpha-ness must come from within!

We once watched a documentary where they captured two wolves and released them into the wild in the hopes of studying them. They presumed the two dogs would mate, form a pack, and provide endless great fodder and footage for the piece. The problem was, neither wolf was an alpha. They basically just ignored each other and wandered off. Unsure of what to do next, they brought in a litter of young pups, hoping the two wolves would rally around them and start a pack.

They did start a pack, but only because one of those pups was a natural alpha dog. They brought in a deer carcass and sure enough, it was this pup that ate first and barred his teeth at the two adults until they bowed their heads in submission. He was the wolf the film makers followed, year after year. He was the wolf that the entire forest came to love and fear. And when this alpha died of old age, all the wolves in the wood rent the night sky with their howls of mourning and lamentation. It was actually quite moving.

After watching this film, I had two thoughts. One, I’m not sorry to be raising alphas. They are natural leaders, and with love and guidance will hopefully grow up to do very well in life. And two: I don’t want to be like those first two docile wolves and let my pups eat before me! (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

But my kids, like wolves, can smell fear. When I give a firm “no” they circle slowly, seeming to sniff around me, trying to detect my uncertainty. Does she really mean it, or can we pester and badger her until she acquiesces? Sniff, sniff, sniff…

It’s like a high stakes game of poker. A scene out of Casino Royal, every time I try to lay down the law. The stare down, the bluff, the interpretation of the others’ “tells.” And then finally, the call.

It’s a good thing I’ve got Paul, my Ace of Spades, in my back pocket.

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