Sometimes we teach our children coping skills and sometimes they teach us.

A few nights ago, we got home late after a long day out and headed upstairs to put the kiddo to bed. Our dogs had been home alone all day, never a good thing. One of our dogs, The Destroyer, has separation anxiety, and when we’re away for a long period of time, she goes a little nuts and takes it out on a piece of furniture or one of our possessions (the more irreplaceable, the better, according to her). Over the years we’ve locked down a seven-step dog proofing system that we go through every time we leave, but she’s a border collie and crazy smart and will find the flaws in our system when determined. She was determined on that night.

When the husband and the child went upstairs, I stopped in the laundry room to start a load of laundry. I hear tiny feet coming back down the stairs.

“Hey, Mom,” my daughter says. “Let’s hang out down here for a while.”

I remind her that it’s bedtime.

“Let’s have dinner.”

We had dinner while we were out.

“Let’s watch some TV.”

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“The Destroyer,” she says in a hushed tone.”She did something.”

“What. Did. She. Do?!” I feel my blood pressure rise.

“Well, there is a lot of door on the floor.”

We went upstairs. It seemed The Destroyer had gotten herself stuck in the child’s room and couldn’t get out, so she tried to eat her way out through the door. There was indeed a lot of door on the floor. My husband was cleaning it up. Apparently, in a collaborative effort to prevent Mommy from freaking out, the kiddo told him, “You clean this up while I distract Mommy.”

When I saw the damage, I admit, a freak-out started to come on…. I’m an over-reactor from way back. My daughter was quick on her feet, grabbed a blanket from her bed, took my hand, ushered me to her bed and nudged me to sit down. Then she wrapped her huge comforter around my shoulders a few times until I couldn’t move my arms. She patted my head. “It’s okay, Mom. It’s just a door.”

And with that, my 4-year-old taught me a lesson on coping, on reacting and over-reacting, on a door being just a door.