Parenting Challenge–Learning from Animals–Running the emotional gamut


Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and pets.

puppy love

We have animals. We interact and coexist with them on a daily basis. How can we not learn from them?

Having animals is an emotional training ground for my son, or so I believe. I hope that when he moves on to the emotional truckload found in adolescence and young adulthood, he will remember some of these experiences and maybe be just a little more prepared and not blind-sided with their impact.

little puppy

Unconditional love

We have had quite a few baby animals under our care. Some have been abandoned, some orphaned and some we bought young. These babies, whether puppies, kitties, colts, ducklings, lambs, bunnies, piglets, kids or chicks, have looked to us with unconditional love. They greet us with shining eyes in the morning. They wait at the gate for us to come home. They follow us trustingly wherever it is we go. They crawl into our laps for comfort. Everyone should experience unconditional love.


Group Identity

Some of our orphans have been accepted immediately by our other animals. Others have been rejected for whatever reason. Maybe their color was wrong, or they were seen as a threat to the already established status quo. It comes as no surprise then that the rejected form their own iron-clad gang, finding love and acceptance among themselves. Everyone should have a feeling of belonging.

Unrequited love

Some of our animals we have found had been abandoned and took them in. It is harder for us to love these older animals with their already formed personalities and behavior issues. We go through the motions, but the unrequited love these animals look at us with is difficult when our emotions do not run so deep. The kindest thing we can do is to try and find a more appropriate home for them. Everyone should learn to deal compassionately with a love that is not returned.

kissing horse


Sometimes, no matter how much lavish attention and love we shower on our animals, it isn’t enough. My husband has been the most affected by animal betrayal. Those dogs and horses he feels closest to have been the ones that ultimately have to go after a particularly horrendous crime. Everyone will experience betrayal.

sad boy


Animals have a shorter life span than humans even when allowed to live out their natural life. Outside events are also a factor. Some of our animals have been poisoned by not-so-well-meaning neighbors. The sadness and pain of loss is not lessened with frequency. Sometimes the only thing that  we can do is sit by a dying animal and give comfort with our presence. Everyone will experience loss.


Sometimes, when we have to make a particularly difficult decision with regards to our animals, I look at my son’s shining eyes and wonder if it is fair that I force him to experience these emotions right now, at his age. I wonder if it would be better if he didn’t have to deal with their magnitude and if I could keep him protected in a hazy bubble, maybe by giving him a fairy tale to believe, a Disney version of All Dogs go to Heaven perhaps. Then again, I know my son and doubt that he would believe such a story even if I could present it well. After all, life isn’t the Disney channel and childhood isn’t an isolated period of growth and development. He already knows that and so do I.


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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • What Animal Rescue is Teaching My Children
  • Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shares some tips she’s learned on how to find the perfect child-friendly dog for your family.
  • All New Animals Are “Woof” — Baby Boy is still learning animals. Life Breath Present doesn’t yet have any at home, but he still believes that all animals are “woof.” Here’s the proof.
  • Dude, where’s my Horse? — Adora loves horses, but Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different really doesn’t. However, Adora’s longing wins out; learn about their interactions with horses here.
  • Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet — When is a family ready for a pet? Donna at Eco-Mothering discusses her worries as well as the benefits of adopting a dog, including how it will affect her seven-year-old daughter.
  • Parenting Challenge–Learning from Animals–running the emotional gamut — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the emotional learning her family has experienced through sharing their lives with animals.
  • Puppy Love for our Family — In case you didn’t catch it from the blog title, Pug in the Kitchen, the family pet is an integral part of Laura’s family and home life!
  • Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook is mostly vegetarian…not 100%, and not because of animal rights…yet she has found that the idea of not hurting animals is the aspect of vegetarianism most easily understood by a young child. She explains what her son has learned about not eating meat and how it has affected his social life.
  • Pets & kids: The realities — Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the benefits and drawbacks of pet ownership when young kids are involved.
  • HOW PETS CONNECT WITH EMOTIONS: KIDS & PETS AFTER 9-11 — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence discusses the importance of pets in lowering stress after traumatic situations, why children choose certain pets, the loss of a pet, and the role of parents in teaching care-giving to animals in a warm, gentle way.
  • It’s not our house without a dog! — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work describes why giving a loving and disciplined home to at least one shelter dog at a time enriches the life of her family, and has become a vivid memory in the minds of her children.
  • Canine Haikus —Kids, dog, haikus, atDionna (Code Name: Mama).Pet-centric poems.
  • Beanie’s BunniesOur Mindful Life‘s Sofi Bean has gotten her first pets!
  • Montessori Care of Pets — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her experiences with kids and pets and shares Montessori resources for pet care.
  • No Puppy! — Meg at the Boho Mama shares her tips for dealing with toddlers and the (very real) fear of animals.
  • Year of the Pets — Jorje of Momma Jorje wasn’t sure she ever wanted pets again, but things have changed a lot this year!
  • 3 Reasons Why Keeping Backyard Chickens is Good for my Toddler — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, started keeping backyard chickens for the benefit of their eggs, but what she wasn’t prepared for was what they would teach her two-year-old daughter too.



Filed under Animal Husbandry, Carnival posts, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

18 responses to “Parenting Challenge–Learning from Animals–Running the emotional gamut

  1. You know, I think it was your carnival post from months ago that ultimately pushed me from “we should get a dog someday,” to “we need a dog now!” 🙂 Yes, animals come with pain and grieving and anger and other negative emotions, but they also come with forgiveness and trust and love and so many amazing positives. We’re only in our first month of dog ownership as a family, but I’m so sure we made the right decision. Thank you for sharing your journey – it was truly an inspiration!


  2. Life Breath Present

    I enjoyed this post – you laying out the parts of having and interacting with animals. Yes, animals can be a great “training ground” for the nuances of human relationships, but with the added benefit of constant and unyielding unconditional love. In my opinion, children are not to young to experience life and each element you mentioned is part of life, whether we like it or not. The best thing to do is learn how to welcome it and work through our emotions as a result 🙂


    • I really like this quote from Charlotte Mason–We temper Life too much for Children.––I am not sure that we let life and its circumstances have free play about children. We temper the wind too much to the lambs; pain and sin, want and suffering, disease and death––we shield them from the knowledge of these at all hazards. I do not say that we should wantonly expose the tender souls to distress, but that we should recognise that life has a ministry for them also; and that Nature provides them with a subtle screen, like that of its odour to a violet, from damaging shocks. Some of us will not even let children read fairy tales because these bring the ugly facts of life too suddenly before them.

      Having animals is sometimes unpleasant or ugly, but so is life.


  3. Being surrounded by the unconditional love of animals on a daily basis seems like a wonderful thing, even if it comes with sorrow and loss. My daughter was heartbroken when we found her birthday bunny dead just a few weeks after we got her. What she wanted to do most was touch it (just like her grandfather at his funeral) – i suppose to confirm death or experience it? Either way, I’m glad I allowed her to follow her instincts and fully feel the emotions around it, even though she was young. I think it can only build compassion in our little ones and helps them learn that intense emotions won’t swallow you up.


  4. These are all awesome points about lessons learned from animals-and such fabulous lessons they are! I really enjoy the point you made about group identity; this is something I had not considered as a benefit of pet ownership, but it certainly is. Thank you for opening my eyes to that!

    In addition, my, your son is adorable! I have just discovered your blog, and it looks really interesting. I am so looking forward to reading more from you!


  5. What a great post! You really do learn such Big Things from animals, and it makes sense that that learning would start young. I know experiencing animal death and rejection has been hard on my son, but it’s something he’ll experience in his life regardless, so why not now when I can help him walk through it with love?


  6. I’ve worried about how my daughters will react when our dogs die. They’re a breed known for their lack of longevity, so the girls will probably be late childhood to early teens when they experience this loss. In reality though, I think it’s just part of life. It’s important to feel that bond so strongly with an animal that you feel absolutely devastated when they’re gone. And I also love the part about unconditional love. Having something that is so excited to see you 100% of the time, will cuddle you when you’re sad no matter what, and never wants to be anywhere but on your lap just can’t be replicated any other way.


  7. lhollman

    Your little boy has so many wonderful experiences with his animals. It makes me happy just to see his picture. You provide wonderful experiences for your son.
    Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence


    • Sometimes I feel like I can’t give him what other kids have because of our location and financial situation, but when I ask if he feels in anyway deprived, he says that life is good. I guess that will do!


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