Mom in the Doghouse


Honour thy father and thy mother (Ex. 20:12).

It all started when Brandon, my two-year-old brother, got in the fridge and began dropping eggs onto the kitchen floor. Actually, things had been pretty crazy all morning. Mom, who is usually up and dressed by 7:00 every day, was still in her robe and slippers at noon, waiting for a chance to slip into the shower. The phone had been ringing all morning, the new baby was fussy, my little sister, Emily, had broken two glasses while setting the table for breakfast, Brandon had tried to be a “big helper” by washing out his oatmeal bowl in the toilet, and I had been whining all morning for Mom to drive me to my cousins’ house so that I could go roller-skating with them.

Mom had finally gotten the baby to sleep and was picking up the broken glass, when Brandon got into the eggs. Before she could do anything about him, the phone rang again. Sister Halvorson wanted to talk over Primary stuff with Mom, who is her first counselor. But Mom couldn’t hear a word she was saying, because Emily was prancing around, hollering that she needed to go to the bathroom. (The door was latched up high to keep Brandon from getting into it again.)

Mom told Sister Halvorson that she’d call back when things were calmer—in about fifteen years—and hung up. She dove for Brandon, who had run out of eggs and was trying to improve the color of the gooey mess on the floor by adding catsup, and called for me to unlatch the door for Emily.

But I was still mad about not being able to go roller-skating, so I just stood there pouting. “It’s not fair,” I said. “You get to do whatever you want whenever you want just because you’re a grown-up. I never get to do what I want. I wish I were the mom!”

That’s when it happened.

“Boingo!” Mom sang out, plopping Brandon back down in his egg and catsup concoction. “That’s it. I quit.” And with that, she turned and slid through the egg slime, out the back door, and calmly crawled inside the doghouse. (We had a large dog.)

I followed. Squatting, I peered in. “Mom, why are you in the doghouse?”

“Because I couldn’t climb the tree in my robe,” she answered matter-of-factly.

“Are you going to clean up the mess Brandon made?”

“No,” Mom replied sweetly. “I’m going to let you have your wish. Abbra-ka-doobra-ka-broccoli-boop!” she chanted, ceremoniously tapping my shoulders with the dog’s bone. “There! You are now officially ‘Mom’ for a while! You get to clean up the mess!”

“Oh, I get it,” I said. “We’re going to switch roles. I read a book about this!”

“No, no. You wished to be a mom. I didn’t wish to be a kid again. I’ve been there. That’s not so easy, either. No, I think I’ll just be a dog today.”

“Oh! This is going to be fun!” I shouted, envisioning myself filling shopping carts with frozen pizzas and Popsicles, serving ice cream and doughnuts for supper, and staying up all night watching TV.

“But, Megan,” Mom interrupted my daydream, “you have to take the whole package. I’ll be fair and take care of the baby, but you’ve baby-sat Brandon and Emily before, and it’s time you learn that you can’t just take the freedom without taking the responsibility too. Understand?”

I nodded and waited for Mom to tell me to start by cleaning up Brandon and the eggs, but she just barked, circled around a couple of times on her hands and knees, and settled herself comfortably in the doghouse.

I hesitated a moment, then headed for the house. As I reached the back porch, Mom stuck her head out and called, “Please leave the door open so I can hear if the baby wakes up.” She barked again and disappeared.

One look at the kitchen was all I needed to repent real fast. All my wonderful visions of endless roller-skating and unlimited ice cream exploded like a blitzed video arcade target. Brandon had discovered a bowl of leftover spinach in the fridge and was gleefully draping the limp, greenish globs over his head as he jumped up and down in the catsup-streaked egg mixture.

I almost went right back out to the doghouse to beg Mom to forsake her canine ways and be the mom again, but I didn’t. Not because I was too stubborn to admit that I was wrong, but because I suddenly realized that being a grown-up really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. And Mom was stuck with it twenty-four hours a day, whether she liked it or not. The least I could do was let her be a dog for a few hours.

I unlatched the door for Emily, checked on the baby, who was sleeping peacefully, then tackled the job of getting Brandon and the kitchen cleaned up. A couple of times I thought I saw Mom peeking in the window, but I wasn’t sure.

Sopping up all those eggs gave me a lot of time to think about what Mom had said about freedom and responsibility. I was still getting used to the idea that maybe grown-ups sometimes got tired of being grown-up. I guess we all need a break sometimes, no matter who we are, I mused. I remembered reading in the New Testament that even Jesus had grown weary on occasion and had gone into the mountains where he could be alone for awhile.

I was fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Emily and Brandon, when I remembered that Mom hadn’t even had any breakfast—someone had come to the door just as she was about to eat her bowl of cereal, and by the time she got back, it was soggy.

With great care I made a sandwich for Mom, adding extra grape jelly, which I knew she adored. I carried the sandwich outside and knelt down by the doghouse. “Shall I put this in the doggy dish, or will this plate do?” I asked, giving Mom a big “everything is OK” wink.

Mom winked back. Then she crawled out of the doghouse, yawned, stretched, and brushed the dog hair off her robe. “Now that’s what I call a good vacation!” she declared, taking the sandwich and marching toward the house.

When Dad got home from work that evening, I took him aside and told him all about Mom’s morning. He was extra helpful that night. After dinner, while Dad was helping Emily and Brandon with their prayers and getting them to bed, I sat by Mom on the sofa as she nursed the baby.

“Megan, why don’t you call your cousins and tell them I’ll drop you and your roller skates off for a few hours in the morning,” she said, putting her free arm around me.

I thought for a moment before answering. “Thanks, Mom, but there’s something else I need to do tomorrow. I think I’ll give that old doghouse a good cleaning. After all—” I grinned— “you never know when you might need it again!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn