Could’ve gone so differently, at so many different moments.
I was taken by surprise when Alden first expressed his upset, and only realized it because I heard him saying to the dog, “Hate you, Raisin, Hate you Raisin” as he got her bowl and put down her food.
“Were you saying, ‘hate you’ to Raisin?” I asked, genuinely confused. “You enjoy her, so much of the time… I know the dogs can be annoying, but, I don’t understand…”
“YES,” he said, frownyface and screwed-up-tight-shoulders telling me something was UP. “And I said “BAD DOG” when I put her food down.”
The heck? I thought, and felt myself shift into gear. “You sound pretty mad,” I said. “I’m not sure why, but I can sure tell you are mad.”
And, as almost always happens when I have the presence of mind to observe, comment, and WAIT… a few minutes later, he dissolved into tears and said he was mad because Daddy went to (our good friend) Brendan’s house and Alden didn’t get to go.
And only more time of patiently listening and reflecting and not rushing to fix helped me realize that he was upset because A) Alden had WANTED to go visit Brendan when he and Josh went for a bike ride earlier, but Brendan hadn’t been home; and B) he hadn’t REALIZED Josh was going to go over while Alden had to go to bed, until Josh left. This is all on top of C) it being 8:30 at night after D) a big busy and social day.
It wasn’t easy to just let him cry, hard, over something that, to me, shouldn’t be “such a big deal”… except, emotionally, I know what it feels like. Alden and I are pretty similar, in a lot of ways, emotionally. For me, when something has pushed past the defensive perimeter and caused hurt, and I’ve started to let it “out”…. well, it sometimes feels like it has a scary uncontrollable energy. I think to myself, “how would I want someone to respond to ME, when I am feeling stupidly, annoyingly, out of control, emotionally? I want them to not rush to FIX it, not try to distract me–until I am ready– and not to abandon or reject me.
So that was my response to Alden, tonight.
When he asked for the lavender-flax heating pad for comfort, I heated it right up, and asked him if he wanted an extra blanky. When he wanted to read a few extra Shel Silverstein poems to each other I said sure.
I know that some would say I was indulging a child who was having an irrational tantrum. That I am teaching him that he can get away with disrespectful crappy behavior. I don’t know. Believe me, I second guess my choices all the time. But here’s what happened tonight.
After all that nurturing, patient stuff…. after the reading and the hugging and the heating of the flax pad and the getting of the extra blanky and the turning off of the light, and after I’d settled down at the computer, I heard steps, Alden, out of bed, asking me, “Mama, where’s Raisin?”
“She’s out back,” I said, rising, and following as Alden headed out back. “Buddy,” I asked, as he petted her and stroked her head, “did you want to make up with her a bit? From before?” Still petting her, he nodded. “Dogs are really amazing at forgiving,” I said softly.
I watched him make up with the brown furry friend he’d taken his anger out on earlier and thought about the easy release that it is, to unload on someone who can’t really fight back. And about the emotional healing that forgiveness offers, if we are strong enough, and feel deeply enough, to ask it.
He went back to bed after that, and again, he cried, I heated up the flaxpad, and helped him snuggle once more into his soft and warm bunk. And I headed back to the computer to write this and think to myself about the many, many ways it could’ve gone differently.