Catch and Release

Does your family have a pet? Does your pet ever bring something into the house you wish it hadn’t?

We love our cat. He brings us all kinds of joy, but lately he’s been bringing us a bit more. Mice and birds to be exact. When our cat first joined our family, he was an indoor cat. After several months, we found a pet door that would let him leave and re-enter by detecting the chip he has. We figured this would give him freedom and would keep other animals from entering. What we didn’t account for was that our cat would hunt for prey (mouse or small bird), catch it, and then carry it in. Our cat doesn’t realize it prey wasn’t dead, but playing dead in order to survive. Our cat brings in the critter, lays it on the floor, looks at us with pride (see what I did?) and when we approach, it never fails, the prey suddenly comes back to life and scampers off. Ugh!

One day, he brought a finch in in the morning and a mouse that night, my oldest son, who tends to go to bed the latest and was met with the mouse this particular evening, put his foot down. “We’re locking the cat door at night! I can’t take another animal getting in here.” My husband and I were becoming pros are catching and releasing the prey, and we too were getting tired of our cat bringing small animals in. So we did. Of course, our poor cat is thoroughly confused. The door that let him in and out at will, now doesn’t–it’s open during the day and gets locked at night (prime hunting time). His pride in catching the prey is now viewed as did I do something good or wrong? We’re working with our cat to teach him this new boundary (can you teach cats this?). It’s interesting to see us, as a family, all being on the same page with how best to address the situation. The parental power dynamic is removed and instead it’s how do we solve this together?

Raising kids reminds me of what we’re working on with our cat. You sometimes give them some freedom, and then have to reign it back in when you see either they aren’t ready for it, or it’s being abused. It helps when everyone agrees there is an issue and decides how to best address it together.

How are you giving your child more freedom? Have you ever had to reign it back in?

Pokémon Go Will Save Us?

Are you competitive? Is your child?

I learned about competition when I joined my neighborhood swim team when I was in elementary school. It only took one meet for me to recognize that if I was going to enjoy being on the team I needed to be competitive. The transition from not being aware of the benefits of being competitive to understanding them was quick. By the next meet, I was in it to win it. I was going to swim my fastest, I wanted to win!

My oldest son has also embraced his competitive side. He enjoys sports and is always looking to try something new to test his skills and capabilities. He is passionate about winning and struggles with defeat.  I have questioned why we place such a high value on competition based on seeing the highs and lows my son has experienced, and I have in competitive situations.

I came across the documentary, I Am, several years ago thanks to Oprah.  Tom Shadyac was exploring happiness after experiencing great success (winning!) but not feeling happy. He invited scientists and other subject matter experts to explore the topic with him and the output was the documentary. One idea that emerged was that the long-term survival of species (ants, for example) depended largely on cooperation. In these species cooperation is highly valued and competition has low/no value. Being a competitive ant doesn’t serve the colony well. It would in fact, be counter to a colony’s survival. Humans still have a ways to go. Our children aspire to be elite athletics, movie starts, singer or someone ‘famous.’ Competition to be number 1 is still fierce, but what if cooperation became more highly valued and easy (or easier) to achieve?

My oldest son loves Pokémon Go. It’s become something he and I have connected over. We take walks together so he can play, and I play Pokémon Go when I travel so he and I can stay connected. He asked me to take him to a local park that is known for having lots of Pokémon. When we got to the park, I was amazed. There were literally hundreds of people–mainly kids but also teens and adults, of all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds–all working together to catch Pokémon. Pokémon present themselves to you on your device, if you and other Pokémon players are in the same location, it presents the same Pokémon to all, not a select few. So instead of people fighting over who is going to catch the Pokémon, everyone has an equal chance. It then becomes a matter of what technique you use (candy, great ball, ultimate ball, etc.) to catch the Pokémon. In the park, not only were the players sharing information about where the Pokémon were that they were finding, but what techniques they were using to catch the Pokémon so others could catch them to. It was cooperation at it’s finest. Observing everyone working together was really inspiring. While I was reluctant to embrace Pokémon Go when it first launched based on some of the initial press the game was getting, I’ve become a fan. And after seeing what I did at the park, I’m an even bigger fan. If something like this game can bring people together, just think of the possibilities for the human race.

Where have you seen people working together in an unexpected place? Where have you, or your child, found cooperation outdo competition?