I find myself in the very odd position of sharing a house with one very lovely woman, three mentally challenged dogs, one 20-year-old who is barely ever here and three boisterous boys. This is by choice, you understand - I have moved in with my girlfriend Laura and her brood. Now, I have fathered children of my own, and the challenges of parenting never change, but the challenge of what is essentially step-parenting is a new one to me. In an environment where one is "the new boy", getting accepted is one thing, but getting listened to is quite another. I generally have no trouble with the 20-year-old Amy who is hardly ever here because she spends a lot of time with her significant other, and Josh, the 15-year-old who generally is off in his own little world of Line Rider, Fallout New Vegas and Xbox-related activities. The 10-year-old Matt with his trademark cheeky grin is usually OK with things I say or do, but occasionally has yelled at me, and 9-year-old Ewan is also quite sweet most of the time, unless one or other or both of his brothers says or does something he disagrees with, or dislikes, or vaguely construes as some kind of a dis. It is when the boys decide to fight with each other about something seemingly trivial that I have to grit my teeth and either let their mum sort it out or let them fight to the death, because I have found out to my chagrin that I am still too much of a noob to be taken seriously or even listened to most of the time.
It's weird, being in the position of being able to offer parenting advice (having been a parent and worked as a daycare provider for 6 years), yet not being able to apply any of my knowledge because it will get ignored when utilised, by three boys who still regard me with some suspicion. I have been told on a few occasions by one or other of the anklebiters to be quiet (well, they didn't put it so politely) or that they "don't care", simply because I am the "new" one of the group. I then have to somewhat bite my tongue. (It should be said here that two of the boys have learning difficulties. It should also be said that I do find them all charming and endearing in their own ways. Josh and Matt have great senses of humour and even Ewan has come out with some priceless corkers. They are all quite sweet, and it is important that this be understood, and that I am in no way criticising them, or their mum.) Whatever happens, though, it's certainly not dull.
The dogs are all a bit special, it must be said. Speaking as one who has lived with cats for most of his life, I've always regarded dogs as being a bit, well... dim. I think it is the independent streak in cats that I find most endearing, that kind of "I don't really need you, but I choose to stay here" attitude that sort of commands respect from us dullard humans that I like. Dogs, however, are the opposite. Always looking at you like, "Ooh, whatcha got? Whatcha doin'? Ooh, entertain me!". However, living with these dogs is interesting.
There's Tigger. He's the top dog. He is in charge, and gets upset with the other two if they fight. He loves people, especially if they are wearing black pants which he can smother with his ginger hairs. Especially my sister, for some reason. He's not allowed on the furniture, except when my sister arrives and then he thinks it's OK to sit on the sofa next to her and will not be budged. He's like, "This is my woman and I am not leaving her side." He has one of those plaintive faces that just melts your heart.
Then there is Sally a.k.a. Bear. She's a little barrel-shaped Border/Lakeland mix with a quizzical expression on her face who gets excited at the mention of her name and pats her front paws in a kind of quick pat-a-pat motion coupled with little leaps. She can actually jump surprisingly high for a dog of her stature.
She and Charlie both have this habit of doing what I call the "Chicken-Leg", dragging their back legs around the carpet in an attempt to get noticed.
And then there's Charlie. He's... well, he's a special dog. You've heard the expression 'wag the dog' - well, when his tail wags, his entire spine does too, giving rise to his nickname 'Charlie Sideways' among others. It's especially funny when he tries to walk and wag, and funnier still when he tries to walk downstairs and wag. He's also prone to peeing when over-excited. Poor Charlie.
So, here I am in probably the most boisterous, noisy, busy house I've ever lived in. But there isn't anywhere else I'd rather be. Right now I can hear the boys talking and playing in their room, Amy's esconced in her bedroom, Laura's sitting in her computer chair, and I'm on the bed blogging. The dogs are downstairs in their beds, and we are all looking forward to a nice crisp day tomorrow, hopefully with a bit of snow. All is right with the world.