On the hit animated series, King of the Hill, Hank can regularly be known to exclaim concerning his slightly abnormal son, Bobby, “That boy ain’t right!” It’s usually after Bobby displays some unusual behavior. Because Hank has a very ordered view of the world and how it should be, when Bobby displays his unusual behavior that confuses his father, Hank will exclaim the popular phrase while shaking his head in a look of bewilderment. It’s a common feeling that all parents have at different times—we think, “That is not what I was expecting out of my offspring.” We realize they are odd, or at least way different that what we expected.
Laura and I sometimes apply this quotation from the popular series to our dog, Winston. We are passed the point of being surprised by our children and most of the surprises these days are good ones. But the miniature Australian Shepherd in our house sometimes confuses us. For example, I notice that he is begging to go outside, and I remember that he was just outside an hour ago but spent most of his time barking at something that wasn’t even there. So, he forgot to poop and now I have to get dressed again to take him out. I exclaim, almost automatically, “That boy ain’t right!” We go to great lengths to provide him clean water and food that is scientifically designed for him, yet he still scavenges for crumbs and drinks out of the toilet. I sometimes say, “He must have some screws loose,” because it surprises me when he does things that don’t make sense.
I wonder to myself why he barks at the mail lady that comes at the same time every day. I look at him with bewilderment and then and have this discussion with him. “She comes every day at the same time, why are you barking?” He just stares at me. I shake my head, “That boy ain’t right!” And, why does he love my feet? Is that something biological or is just another clue that he’s not quite right in the head. I mean, he knows lots of tricks like “high-five” and “sit” and “go get your ball.” He’s a great ball fetcher, but wait…is he barking again at nothing…”What’s wrong with you?” I asked him as if he should respond in a Mr. Ed type of voice, “I don’t know.”
Then yesterday, it hit me. I was on Facebook and someone said something that I considered absolutely stupid. I didn’t patiently ask them for clarification, I just barked at them, “Arf, arf, arf.” Laura was in the background calmly reminding me, “are you sure you want to argue with that guy—why are you still friends with him?” “I don’t know…arf, arf, arf,” I said as I continued arguing and making my point. I remember hearing someone complain about dogs barking, and my sister-in-law said, “Well, that’s what they do.” After I yelled at my dog, he seemed to be saying with his eyes, “Hey, I’m a dog—that ‘s what we do—I’m supposed to bark.” He and Laura whispered to me in my thoughts, “What’s your excuse?”
Did she say “that boy ain’t right” or did I just imagine that? Dogs are very good at being dogs. They pretty much do what they are supposed to do most of the time. Young boys are the same way—they don’t always do what we expect, but that’s says more about our expectations than their actions. Many times, it’s the adults that are completely convinced we are doing the right things that “aren’t right.” We argue on Facebook when we know it won’t do any good. We try to form our children into our view of their future instead of their natural bent. And, then we get mad at the rest of the world because it doesn’t live up to our expectations.
Winston and my children are exactly who they are supposed to be. The idiot on Facebook is being himself. If it bothers me too much, I can unfriend him or at least unfollow him, so I won’t see all of his crazy thoughts. My job is to be authentic and not to conform the world to my expectations. That is what “ain’t right” and maybe I can learn to just let Winston and the rest of the world bark when they need to bark. I may never understand drinking out of the toilet but maybe it’s not that important anyway.
Message me at any time if you have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find me on Twitter
Subscribe to Karl’s Coaching Podcasts