Saturday, October 22, 2005


While Ross was playing with Pingy last night, the unthinkable happened. Ross got a little too close for her comfort and her reflexes took over and she snapped at him, in his face. He was completely shocked that she would do such a thing to him. As quickly as she snapped at him, he pulled back, and with this mortified look on his face said to me, “Mom, Pingy bit my cheek.”

Ross rarely cries. He has never been a cry baby. So when he does cry, you know something has penetrated his emotions on a really profound level. He gets a look on his face that signals tears are approaching within seconds. It is a look that rips my chest open and all but wrenches my heart out of me. I feel the pull of his emotions as the tears roll, and the only reason I don’t cry is because I want to give him the space to have this emotional release. This is his moment. I am a much bigger cry baby than he is. I cry in cheesy TV commercials. I want him to know that boys really do cry and that is OK.

We established that Pingy had not actually torn his skin and he was not bleeding, it was really only a scratch. I explained to him that Pingy would never intentionally hurt him but he needs to understand about not getting in her face. Pingy was of course banished to her basket and then while Ross and I were shnoogying on the bed, wiping away his tears, we called Pingy to join us. She came back on to the bed somewhat reluctantly and it was clear to all of us that she was feeling really shitty about what she had done. Pingy is an exceptionally intelligent dog, and she is truly an integral part of our family. I was pleased when Ross took it upon himself to comfort and stroke her, assuring her that it was OK and that we all still love her.

After Ross went to sleep, I lay in bed thinking about that look on his face right after Pingy snapped at him. This total shock and disbelief that someone you love and care for would do something to hurt you.

A string of extremely unfortunate events unfolded between me and my step-daughter this week. The fallout has held this family perilously on the brink of crisis ever since and it has been quite horrible. As I reflected on the emotions expressed on Ross’ face, I realized that how he looked is how I have been feeling this last week. There is something overwhelmingly upsetting when someone from within your closest circle does something you never thought they would do.

How does one find the balance between giving your children the freedom to grow and trying to get them to see that you are not limiting them or holding them back when you teach them values? Values that your experience has shown you the world – and life – respond well to. Perhaps someone out there knows better than I how to effectively communicate to your children that all you want from them – ‘cos hey, we know ‘expect’ is a dirty word! – is, just, be nice!