“I love you soooo much.” Said in the sweetest voice, just oozing aforementioned love.
I turned around in delighted surprise, to tell my usually reticent 12-year-old I love him too. However, as I watched our nine-month-old black lab mix, Bailey, lick his face, I realized to whom he had been speaking. And it wasn’t me.
That’s OK. I had to go into the other room to do my dance of joy, so he wouldn’t see it.
You see, I had ulterior motives when we rescued this dog. Did I want us to do some good and help the poor sweet puppy out? You bet. But did I also want her to help us out? Absolutely.
My eldest comes from a long line of Latin males on his father’s side and German/Scottish/British (there are more, but I won’t bore you) maternal ancestors. Put them together and you don’t have the most ebullient, tender male. “Soft” emotions, thoughtfulness and a tender side are not exactly running rampant in the gene pool.
My son doesn’t show much unless he trusts you implicitly. And there aren’t many on this earth he trusts implicitly. Just the way he’s wired.
Fine for the most part. In the work world, that modus operandi works. In sports, a game face is a good thing. But in relationships? Oy vey.
I can role model all I want to no avail; I’m the mama. I’m also a woman—which to him is still another odd species entirely.
So I put on my mama thinking cap and came up with the safest, yet coolest, outlet for emotion—make that encouragement of emotion—I could find. A very large, somewhat fierce, extremely strong dog. Who would love him to pieces and bring out the soft and fuzzy bits.
I wasn’t sure it would work. Who knew if they’d bond? But, when I heard his voice, saw him hug Bailey and caught the look in his eye, I did the dance of joy.
And when later that evening, I entered his bedroom to find him wrapped in a blanket, arms around our dog, as they both lay asleep on the floor, I teared up. I woke him up gently to get him into his bed and he sleepily protested: “She looked lonely down here and I don’t want her to be lonely.” I envision years from now, him solicitously covering his sick wife with a blanket. He tells stories about Bailey’s antics at school like a proud daddy and I envision him cheering his kids on at every game. But, I get ahead of myself. Slow down, honey.
The upshot: my son is learning how to love unconditionally and care in a way that means he could get hurt. As a mother, that makes me dance for joy. Because his capacity for hurt will mirror his capacity for joy—and deep is better than shallow on both ends. He is learning to put someone’s needs before his own (something he couldn’t learn with a younger brother but can with a dog . . . hmm . . . not sure I want to delve into that one too deeply).
I may raise a strong but tender Latin/German/Scottish/British male yet. Ancestors are rolling in their graves. Upon which I do a happy dance. Take that, stoic brutes.
Score one for the mama.