April 27, 2012

We have this crazy dog. She’s crazy around any other animal, no matter how big or small. She’ll charge a horse (yes, she’s done it) or a mouse or even a fly. She especially dislikes other dogs. It’s not awesome. We did all the right things, the dog park daily and all that and then suddenly, when I got pregnant, it was all over. No dog park for her! (There was a rat terrier incident.) Our Tia Maria became overly protective and has possibly even become more and more so with each new member of our family. She’s nice to people, but not to any other living thing, including trees–you know what dogs do to those.

Now we have those baby chicks. We knew this would be an issue, so the chicks and Tia take turns being outside. We’re trying to slowly introduce them, like through the screen door and stuff like that, but it’s really just a joke. On us. Tia goes in to crazy dog mode and no matter how many times I try to Cesar Milan her, she just can’t snap out of “I want to eat you” mode. She drools and paces and whines and zones in on our poor little feathered friends.

Needless to say, we’re very very careful that the dog is in a room with the door closed when the chicks are outside so no one forgets and accidentally lets her into the backyard with them. But, (yes, you guessed it) the other evening, we went for a family walk to the park and the chicks were out back, enjoying the warmest April day so far. Tia was out from behind a closed bedroom door because she’d gotten better about noticing the chicks through the window and going nuts. She was just napping in a sun spot on the floor.

Time at the park gave Miles all kinds of time to forget that the chicks were outside. So he did the right thing when he was the first one in the house. He let the dog out.


And by the time Ryan and I got inside there was mass chaos including a neighbor boy coming in at that exact moment, Miles screaming, a chick getting itself stuck between the screen door and the glass sliding door and me totally freaking out because I love my chickens so much. It was like a scene from a cartoon, where everyone starts spinning in a big circle of dust and there are bangs and pows and zings while little bolts of lightening fly from the chaos. I had Elsie on my hip and I was screaming and I realized suddenly that nothing was happening.

Nothing was happening?

Miles was between the chicks and the dog and…get this…wait for it…

The dog was listening! Cowering, in fact, at Miles’ command while Ryan was opening the door and that sheepish dog was walking toward it and away from her would-be victims.

It was incredible. Seriously. She never listens to Ryan or I in this kind of situation. And then all went quiet and the look on Miles’ face could have melted the hardest of hearts in all of the universe. His lip trembled and he said, I didn’t know they were out here while his voice was rising in panic and then he took off around the side of the house, embarrassed and totally unsure of what to do next.

Oh my heart.

I put Elsie down and followed him and there he was, pacing and crying. I crouched down and he fell on me, needing a hug like he does when he’s physically hurt. But this time it was his heart and that can be harder pain because it lasts longer in your head, I think.

I told him he was so brave and smart and that he saved the chickens, but he kept focusing on what he’d done wrong, in his mind. That he’d let the dog out before checking for the chickens and I kept telling him it was a mistake and that we should have put Tia in another room and it was okay because he just didn’t know. That even if something awful would have happened, he was still so brave and tried so hard.

He felt better and a smile started to turn up the corners of his mouth, his little mouth that stays the same as the one that was on his baby face. Then later that night, he lost his first tooth while eating an apple. He almost swallowed it and he kept saying, with so much pride, that he felt something hard and then realized it was his tooth right before swallowing it. And I know he knows who the tooth fairy really is but he kind of plays along.

He’s embarking on seven and it seems it’s an age that has him caught between baby and big kid. It won’t be long until these moments where he needs me like his former self will be fewer and fewer. So the honor of being his mother, holding him on the ground in a puddle of tears and rejoicing with him over his first lost tooth is that much richer, even more precious than ever before.

It just keeps getting better. Not easier, not harder, but different and more and less and always full of the bending things that make me Mama. He is caught in that place between being held close always to protect and nurture and being let go, for independence and confidence. So I’m caught there too, like our little black chick behind the glass. We’re being chased by time.

The damn dog seems to have gotten the message, thanks to Miles. I mean, we wouldn’t let her out to experiment but she’s more careful about her behavior when she watches the chicks in her backyard domain through the window.

When Miles started to accept that maybe I was right, that he handled this big situation so well, he said, She only got one little feather off of Asher’s chick, that’s all she got. And I said, Yeah, thanks to you!

There we were, in a heap on the ground, finding the good in something hard. I hope he takes that with him while he keeps going from my baby to my big boy. I hope it catches him. I hope it catches me.


Marlowe April 27, 2012 at 9:08 am

Oh, I have one of this age and tender as can be. This stuff just melts your heart doesn’t it? And … What doesn’t kill your chicks will make them stronger .. Maybe :). In the fall, our neighbor’s dog chased our chickens all over the yard in attack mode and they dumped their feathers and quit laying out of shock but with the arrival of spring they are back in full swing .. And smarter and faster than ever :)

Varda (Squashed Mom) April 27, 2012 at 9:11 am

Yes, 7 so is that age when you really see the big kid emerging from your little bit one minute, then he’s curled up in your lap like a baby the next. And it will continue to change as each year rolls by, yes neither easier not harder – though often actually both at the same time. Easier AND harder simultaneously and also just plain different and miraculous and unanticipated. Your 9 year old opens his mouth and makes a very astute, sophisticated, adult-like comment on the world and you stop in your tracks and think “Who is this… PERSON and what has he done with my little boy?” Enjoy the ride. (And thank goodness no chicks were harmed in the making of this post!)
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Jacki April 27, 2012 at 9:13 am

Oh, this made my heart hurt for a bit. It is horrible to watch our little ones go through these experiences. Yet, they have to fall down in order to learn how to get back up and all we can do it remind them that they do have what it takes to do just that. And it is wonderful, those moments of watching them grow up, mature, find their place (even if it means they are that much closer to leaving us).
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Kelly April 27, 2012 at 9:59 am

Poor guy. It’s hard to forgive yourself for a mistake as an adult when you can think rationally. It’s so much harder to do it as a child when you can’t see the bigger picture. I’m so glad Tia didn’t hurt the chicks!
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Elizabeth April 27, 2012 at 10:37 am

I really relate to this one, in so many ways. Love it, Heather.

TheKitchenWitch April 27, 2012 at 11:39 am

Bawling like a big dork over here. Give the guy an extra hug from me today, ok?
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Brandee Shafer April 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Oh, this really touched me. I love this, best: “It just keeps getting better. Not easier, not harder, but different and more and less and always full of the bending things that make me Mama.” A friend and I were just talking about this, this morning. It changes but never gets easier. Every phase has its own beauty and wonder…and struggles, too. My son is 12 and cracks my heart open like a nut in ways his sisters never have (and, I suspect, never will). You’re doing all the right things, Mama. I’m so thankful the chicks came out ok minus one feather. Big love to your family: hope you guys have a great weekend!
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Ann April 27, 2012 at 6:26 pm

This one goes in your book.
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Deb Rox April 27, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Oh, Heather. Do you know how exceptional you are, that you would even think to assure him that even if something had happened that he was brave and good? The way you knew to walk him through this all both emotionally and cognitively? He will draw on that way of seeing himself and seeing problems throughout his life. You are amazing. (He sounds pretty amazing too.) (You also write like a dream come true.)

Marta April 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Its so hard when they get upset because they know they did something wrong despite how much you reassure them that its okay. You captured this moment so well. My son immediately starts to cry when you tell him he’s said a bad word despite constant reassurances that its okay, he didn’t know it was a bad word, he didn’t know when so and so said it at school.

Glad the chicks are okay!
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Kristen April 28, 2012 at 10:22 am

Oh, Heather. I hear you. My son is 7 and there have been just a couple times when he’s done something and then felt regret that was slipping into shame. It’s simultaneously great to see that developing conscience, and heartbreaking to see how contrition can quickly move to self-doubt. Yikes. It just gets more emotionally complicated as they get bigger, doesn’t it?
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Katybeth April 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Accidents happen and it’s awful when they do…and pardon me for being harsh but as someone who lives and breaths animals 24/7 your Tia will find away to get those chicks one way or another sooner or later and it is not going to be pretty. I am telling you this, not to be a know-it-all or to lecture, but because your story touched my heart and I could share many more that did not work out near as well. One option is too crate Tia when you go out but I am sure you have thought of that and for one reason or another it’s not an option. Some animals were not meant to live together. Sweetie, I can almost promise you the Tia Marie did not get the message.
You handled the situation exceptionally well and so did your son. As the know-it-all mom of a 16 year old I absolutely agree that it keeps getting better and better.

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Sabrina April 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I love this story so much. (well not the chickens almost being eaten) But just how much Miles has grown up and what a big boy he is. You must be so proud!!!
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tracy@sellabitmum April 29, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Oh my heart. Also, 7 is hard. Like really, really hard. Love you dear one. xo
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Galit Breen April 29, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Ohmyheart, his heart is beautiful, as is your parenting. Wow, you. xo
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Barb April 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Wow. Beautiful writing. Beautiful mama. Beautiful child. I challenge any mother to read this without tearing up. Just wow.
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