11.Jul.2011 Puppies,Babies, and our ability to love
I had a lovely al fresco breakfast in my backyard. Every other bite of spinach salad was interrupted by my 7 month old puppy. She wanted me to toss her ball, to rub her ears, to play tug-of-war and then she would wander off to eat a peonie or watch the chickens or patrol the fence line or chewchewchew on her stick. We had already spent 45 minutes at the park playing fetch and practising our sit/down/stay/catch/come. She had had lots exercise. What she needed was attention and reassurance. She’s a puppy. In another 2 years, she will be able to sit quietly while I eat my breakfast. She will grow up. Right now, she’s a baby dog.
It got me thinking. I have a friend in her 50′s who has never had children, has never been around young children, and can not stop complaining about the children she interacts with in public spaces. Really, she is an incredible person. (She wouldn’t be my friend if she weren’t.) I have always thought of her as just missing a component of “humanness”, the ability to nuture. Children are not little adults. And all adults should, by the time they are adults, understand the needs of children and understand what behaviors are realistic. But many of us don’t learn this. Many. I am sometimes quite surprised even by my clients’ beliefs about children. (That babies eat 3 times/day. That babies can wait 45 minutes until you finish your report,etc). My clients are by and large amazing, intellegent people. But many have grown up without this knowledge. Sitting at my breakfast table, I started to think about what I knew about my friend’s parents — good, Godly, pillars of the community who raised her and her siblings with a strict, military discipline. She never got softness. She never got attachment. And in my inbox this morning was this: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201106/believing-children-are-resilient-may-be-fantasy How timely.
While eating my salad and playing with my dog, and in that special way we have with our friends, I figured out how to fix her. She needs a puppy. She needs to love some small, fragile being so much that she will gladly bend her needs to meet the needs of another. (I really don’t think it would be fair for her to learn this with an actual child). She needs to feel the absolute joy that comes from caring for another, small being. Her cats don’t count. Her plants don’t count. She needs someone truly dependent.
I hope you find the article interesting. And I hope it helps in those moments when you hear (inside your own head or out), “You’ll spoil the baby”, “Let him cry it out”, “Oh, she’ll get over it”, “What about your needs?”, or any of the million other immature thoughts that try to keep us from responding to our babies. It really matters that you are responsive to your baby. It matters their whole lives. And it matters for the next generation too.
Now maybe I should call me friend and ask if she managed to figure out how to fix me while she was eating breakfast this morning.