The kids and I like to watch this Animal Planet show called "It's Me or the Dog." It features British animal trainer Victoria Stilwell, who we love for her Mary Poppins accent and for the hilarious, stupefied faces she makes — faces that say, "Can you even believe this?! Oh, my heavens!!" —whenever a dog eats a screen door, for example, or humps her leg.
In a recent episode, Victoria admonished a young woman for overfeeding her dog — a pudgy, pinto bean of a dachshund named Fatty.
"Well," said Hannah, my 12-year-old. "What do you expect when you name a dog Fatty?"
I shook my head. "I bet she was already chubby when they named her," I said. "I bet they adopted her as an adult."
This prompted a lengthy chicken-and-egg debate that ended with us deciding that Fatty is not a very nice name for a dog, no matter how fat she may or may not be.
"Have you ever heard," I inquired in my teaching-moment voice, "of the term 'self-fulfilling prophecy'?"
No, they hadn't. And did they really need to learn something now, they whined, in these last dwindling hours of winter break? The dog was fat; her name was Fatty. Coincidence or prophecy, who cared? Math tests loomed.
I understood. We had heard the tick-tick-ticking of the "60 Minutes" intro, that horrible sound of a weekend dying. It was Sunday night, bedtime, and vacation was over.
I felt the dread, too. I knew what was coming and made a prediction via Facebook: "Tomorrow morning's gonna be ugly."
Two weeks of lazy mornings did not bode well for a 6:15 wake-up call. Neither did a forecast for the coldest weather in decades. I envisioned my middle-schooler screeching like an angry, sleep-deprived baboon.
Self-fulfilling prophecy? Eh. I just know my daughter, and she isn't a morning person.
Before dawn the next day, I tiptoed into Hannah's room and kissed her forehead. She sighed and turned over. I whispered again, "Wake up, sweetie. Time to get dressed."
I tiptoed back out to pack her lunch, bracing for stomps, grunts or tears.
They never came.
Hannah the Grouch was, to my amazement, Hannah the Fairly Congenial. She thanked me for breakfast. She rinsed her dish. She patted the dog. She gathered her things.
Friends related similar experiences. Sarah's Facebook status said, "Good morning, folks. We are off to a good start!" Cindy's kids were cordial as well. What was happening here?
"I may have made an extra effort to be patient," Cindy said, "because I anticipated the challenges."
Aha. I guess I did, too. Expecting a storm, I reacted with gentleness, sympathy and compassion. Driving to school, Hannah admired the fiery, liquid sunrise and we both admitted, though not aloud, that it was a beautiful morning.
So much for self-fulfilling prophecies.