This is a story about a dog, who’s name is Watson.  He’s a fairly normal dog (OK, he’s unreasonably cute), but he plays a very important role in our family, a role that many think children should play.  Still, dogs are dogs, people are people.  One shouldn’t confuse them.

A couple of weeks ago, we got a puppy named Watson. Every member of our family has a job, and his job is to love me. That’s right. The purpose of his life is to love me. But more on that later.

I hear it all the time: “I can’t wait to have a baby so I’ll have someone who will love me unconditionally.” And I understand that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from imagining life with a child. I’ve had my own share of Hallmark dreams….kissing freshly scrubbed toes, being honored with wilted bouquets of wildflowers, cuddling up with baby and board books on snowy Saturday mornings… But now I have two children. And while those iconic moments certainly come, most of life is far different from those postcard scenes.

It didn’t take long for me to learn the truth: My children don’t always love me. The one person they always love is themselves. Yes, they have affection for me, and they certainly need me. But it is to grant their wishes and make their lives more comfortable. Whenever our wills collide, love is far, far from their minds. They scream and manipulate, and act like small soldiers out to conquer. And in those moments, it takes discipline and practice for me to respond with love. Because I, too, am selfish.

Becoming a parent is all about unconditional love – but about giving that most perfect love, not about receiving it. It is about denying self, about choosing someone else’s best, about giving time, and money, and energy. And about being willing to do the hard work of teaching and training a child so that someday he can be on the giving end of unconditional love, too. It isn’t easy, but the rewards are great. Some are seen in my children’s lives, and some develop in me. I am constantly finding ways in which my character must change and grow to withstand the challenges brought through my children – and to use those challenges to teach my kids. And it is hard work! Sometimes I feel their love – and sometimes I don’t.

Which is why we got a dog. At the end of the day, when the precious kiddos have finally gone to sleep, I need someone who will just love me. My husband is awfully good at that (marriage is a huge lesson in unconditional love, too). But he travels a lot. Enter Watson. No matter the circumstances or day we’ve had, he adores me. Job well done.