There’s a commercial for a birth-control product called Mirena that irritates and fascinates me.  A harried mother, hands full (of one child and what looks to be a professionally-decorated home) moves from room to room looking stern as her toddler finds trouble.

Somehow, this kid has been left alone long enough to paint his whole body, to scatter records (records?) all over the room and to have turned on the record player.  In the last scene, the child has wrapped himself in toilet paper, and we see him tearing down the hall as mom stands by, shaking her head.

They’re saying simultaneously kids are so cute and are you sure you want to do this?

I learned this lesson recently when my son’s friend dropped by with his brand new puppy.  His father dropped them off and asked if the puppy could visit as well, saying, “He’s no bother.”

The boys were inert, induced into a semi-coma by some video game, so it fell to me to take care of the puppy.  It was great fun for the first half hour, at which point I gathered (based on empirical evidence and forensics) that the sweet pup was not yet housebroken.  No bother?  Hm.  Swiffer mop to the rescue.

I took the pup out to my yard to do his business (which I’d have to clean up later.  No bother!) then brought him back in to sit quietly as I worked on a post.  Sit quietly?  What was I thinking.  He’s a puppy, so he raced around, barked a bit, got hold of my scarf and tore at it playfully.  No bother! By the end of the night, I was plum-tuckered and ready to hit the hay.

So the next day, my son’s friend came to the door, and I saw his dog expectantly hanging out the back window of the family car.  That puppy was so cute I almost forgot how much work it had been last time.  But when he asked, “Can I bring my puppy, Miss Ruth?”  I didn’t blink.  “Not this time, honey.”

Sometimes we want to make sure everyone else is happy, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  But if it’s at your own expense, you should do a quick Soul Inventory.

□ Do I have to do this?

□ Do I want to do this?

□ Does it sap my energy?

And the big one:

□ Do I get something out of this?

It’s not unkind to ask what’s in it for you when someone asks you a favor.  If you feel taken advantage of or put-upon in some way, there is no shame in saying “not today” to what someone else wants you to do, even if they tell you it’s “no bother.”  Doing the right thing is a way of life, and it has to start at home.

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