Out of all of the people who live in my house, I just realized that my dog is the best communicator. I count him as one of my people because he leaves his stuff everywhere without cleaning it up and follows me around when he wants something that he can’t find, just like my children and most of the time my husband.
Anyway, Otis communicating. There are five of us in the house. Four of us are introverts. One of us is a dog. He wags, he’s happy. He barks, he wants to go out. He runs in circles, he wants to play. He gets his nose stuck under the sofa, there’s an old dog treat under there starting to rot. Three taps with his gigantic paw means, “I love you”, two taps means, “You’re the best”, Mom”, and one tap means “Stop watching Netflix and pet me; you’re starting to blend in with the sofa.”
He also communicates well with another (imaginary) dog that he thinks lives in our house. He spends a good part of the day barking at himself in the mirror and then laying down next to his reflection to calm down his barking doggie counterpart on the other side that he can’t ever quite get to stop growling at him.
If it weren’t for Otis, there would be no feelings expressed in this house at all (other than by me, obviously, who is a fountain of never ending feelings that tend to overflow and almost drown everyone around me). If I ask my children how their day was, I get a “Fine,” followed by a search for a snack and then a quick exit, stage right, to avoid any more probing questions. Sometimes I try to switch it up and ask, “What did you do today?” thinking that I would get a more specific answer, but no. When I ask my kids “What did you do today?” the response is almost always, “Good,” which doesn’t mean that they did good, it means that they aren’t listening to me at all. They might as well have just answered, “Hot dog.”
When I ask my husband what he’s thinking about, he says nothing. Not that he says nothing, he says the word, “Nothing.” What are you thinking about? “Nothing.” I used to keep asking, trying to squeeze out illicit thoughts or catch him daydreaming about a life without a wife who wakes you up because she’s convinced she has head lice (it was just that one time when I taught first grade, and it was a legit concern, but maybe not at 3 am). But no, he is actually thinking about nothing. He’s meditating without having to try. I try to meditate and I literally can’t get away from the ringing in my ears so I just get up and drink more coffee and write to-do lists instead.
Maybe I should teach them all the Otis tap system. One tap means “I’m hungry”. Two taps means, “You should probably clean the bathroom”. Three taps means, “I’m out of ___________________(snacks, school supplies, toilet paper, underwear, etc.).
I could tap back. One tap means, “Get it yourself,” Two taps means, “Do it yourself,” three taps means, “I love you, but you are helpless and I think I’m enabling you to become an adult who can’t function without a full time maid and you’re never going to get a job where you can afford that unless you go do your homework.”
I actually think that if they (my children, not my husband, God forbid), tried to wag their (imaginary) tails when they are happy, it would be adorable, but my son is about to go to middle school and I’m pretty sure that would put him in with a crowd that he’s not ready for.
So, I’ll just rely on Otis and my own intuition, combined with my fabulous ability to have full on two way conversations with myself, and call it a day.