When you have spent the better part of 10 years telling your child to be gentle, it is no small feat to have him lay prone on the floor and pet with one hand the tiny new life you’ve brought into the house. (As to this new life? Well, I’ve not gone daft and had another baby, but I do suppose we’re pitching BRAVO for our own reality show. Because who else brings into their lives – one already full of horses, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and hermit crabs – such a thing as a puppy unless your life is crazy to the point of broadcastability?)
But it seems Noah has learned at least a little of what we’ve encouraged these many years in a life full of animals: that they are God’s creation, too, and worthy of tenderness. Even his brother has taken to holding “Faith” (aptly, and unwittingly named by the breeder even before my brother’s death) in a less-than-man-handling way. Borzois are known for their gentle temperament and can be shy when first making introductions. A real change from our Texas Heeler, Zelda, Faith has proven to be every bit the breed standard, flopping down the hardwood hallway on horse-like feet, all limbs and ribs and slender head. My brother says she looks like a velociraptor, which is a bit true. Though she will make tentative advances to my rough sons, they have learned kindness with her after years and years and long, hard years of asking them how it would feel if THEY were squeezed or pinched or hit? Which tells me that in some way, their “mind blindness” can be overcome – not internally perhaps, but with the power of repetition and committed parenting.
It brings me such joy to see this learned tenderness because it is one of the few instances in which the “getting through” to them is visible. Noah will still wear his pajamas to school if not reminded to change, and Jesse still panics when he cannot hear my voice, and there are all the trappings of a life on the spectrum for them both, but here, the Lord’s presence is tangible, and I am encouraged. I remember reading Eustacia Cutler’s memoir, “Thorn in My Pocket,” about her life with Temple Grandin, and about how she was committed to sameness in her parenting, instructing her daughter in the proper way no matter what neurological construct prevented a natural inclination toward it. So that is where we head. Most importantly, because we are told to train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). And they haven’t departed from it. At least not here. For once.
So our hearts are glad.