Why I hate dogs and children
An introspective essay on the subtleties of love
I never thought I could hate the sound of my own name. Then I became a preschool English teacher.
Looking back, this question seems absurdly ironic: “How is it (teaching and) being a black woman in Spain? Have the kids said anything? But kids don’t really care about that kind of thing?” Kids don’t really care about that kind of thing.
Boy, if that isn’t the definition of “understatement.” These kids fight to sit next to my chair during circletime. These kids call me beautiful when I get my hair braided. These kids run up to me and hug me when I enter the room and shout, “Layla!” Layla. Layla. Layla. For everything. Followed by some complaint or request in Spanish.
These babies even begin crying when I let go their hands and refuse to sit them on my lap. I had to say “babies” that time because I was talking about my 3 year olds specifically, who are still very much babies.
Unlike my 4s and 5s, someone bursts out crying every 7 minutes in my 3 year old classes. They cry because someone hits the other or takes his chair. Like babies.
My 3s are also still baby enough to cry because they want their mommy. Literally. And don’t stop crying.
For example, I made the mistake of picking up a crying 3 not too long ago. He cried for his mommy. I just wanted the crying to stop! Stop it did when I sat him on my lap while I played “Peppa Pig” for his tearless classmates.
When I put him down to attend to the other students, the crying started back up. And ever since that day, he’d reach for me every time he cried.
I’m not your mother. I screamed this internally. During the week, I became so annoyed that I turned away from his pleading eyes and sent him to another teacher’s lap. However, I remember feeling way more uncomfortable than annoyed to be honest.
I’m not your mother. I’m pretty sure he knew this. I don’t tuck him in at night. I can’t even speak to him in Spanish, let alone sing a Spanish lullaby and I haven’t seen her, but I’m sure I look nothing like his mother, if not for the simple fact that my skin is the color of almonds.
So how could this child whom I’ve only known for a few months find the comfort of a mother in me and cry for me? How could he love me?
I took my questions home with me and when I opened the door, my host family’s new puppy came running up to me, licking me and jumping on my legs. When I say new, I mean bought-two-days-ago new.
Great. Another baby creature loving me like he didn’t just meet me 48 hours ago.
I’ve never really liked dogs. They need so much attention and they always want to play. They’re always so happy to see you even if they’ve never met you before. They say, “Hello, human! I’m a dog and I love you!”
But seriously, why can’t dogs be more relaxed and chill like cats? I prefer cats because they’re more like people. They’re more realistic.
People don’t run up to you every time you walk through the door. Well, unless they’re 3 feet tall. . .
I’m reminded of a terrible time in my life when I worked as a maid. One day, I stood scared out of my mind on a doorstep while three grown dogs clawed at the glass door, having smelled a stranger’s arrival. I trembled with the homeowner’s key in my right hand. I saw the German Sheppard’s sharp teeth with each bark. The other two didn’t seem so menacing.
I took a deep breath and tried to rationalize. They’re just happy to see me is all, I thought. They’re overly warm and friendly dogs.
But the German Sheppard’s teeth had me thinking other things: Those are the kind of dogs that can kill people, right? And aren’t some dogs racists? When if their barks were warnings not to trespass unless I wanted to get ripped to shreds?
I took a big gulp and unlocked the door, relying on my more positive thoughts and previous experiences with dogs, but still with eyes tightly shut. Instead of getting attacked, I was sniffed and licked as per usual.
I later learned from the homeowner that my fear was not unfounded: “I didn’t know what time you were coming. I wanted to be home. Some people get scared because the Sheppard just gets so excited and it’s a bit scary to new people.” I nodded knowingly, flashing back to his menacing teeth and being scared for my life just a few hours ago. Excited. Right.
Just the nature of dogs.
But I couldn’t help thinking that my dislike for dogs had something to do with my aversion to comforting that crying 3. In both cases, there was just too much affection, too much love, but not just that: it was love for no reason. It didn’t make sense!
I was not his mother and did nothing to deserve his crying out for me. We weren’t the same race. We didn’t even speak the same language!
All I had to do was have a pulse for dogs to greet me like I was their owner.
Both, dogs and children, are known to always be in your face! In other words, they love you unconditionally. I’d done nothing to deserve their love, but I didn’t have to do anything. Just be myself.
I realized that I was uncomfortable because unconditional love in people is something so rare, whether towards others or towards oneself.
Moving forward, I’ll be sticking to my human-like cats, but I’ll be finding new ways to accept my students’ unconditional love. I even hope to emulate it. Though, it’s kind of hard when you place conditions on the love for yourself.