Me to kid: “What should I write about for In Between Sundays this week?”
Kid: “Write about how your dog is driving you bananas.”
It was her immediate, unhesitating response, and it gave me pause.
It gave me pause because the dog wasn’t barking its head off in that moment, although it had been earlier. And I wasn’t upset or irritable right then, so she wasn’t responding to immediate stimuli. But I have recently grown even more sensitive and impatient with the barking, and the children in the house have noticed.
Of course they’ve noticed. I’m not subtle with my outbursts of “STOP BARKING!” “What’s WRONG with you?!” “Would you please SHUT UP!”
I’m not proud of those outbursts, although I do understand them. I’m very sensitive to noise, and I have a visceral reaction of upset to the particular pitch of this dog’s fierce barking. My upset is understandable, and my outbursts are sometimes momentarily satisfying, but they don’t change the dog’s behavior, and they don’t really contribute to my peace of mind, either.
And when I’m less reactive (which is almost always directly related to my state of stress, exhaustion, busyness, etc.), I’m able to consider what the dog’s barking means for the dog herself. It’s almost always a fear response as she reacts to perceived threats of noise or potential intruders or other dogs. (“OMG! I could die!”)
In those moments, she is calmed by my kind and loving interruption or distraction – by the reassurance that she is safe, that there are treats to eat, that she is not alone, that someone trustworthy is by her side.
“Write about how your dog is driving you bananas,” she said.
It’s not just about dogs, is it?
May I – may we – be less reactive and more present to our own needs and the needs of those we [claim to] love.