Those of us who are parents have an instinct to protect our children from all manner of harm. That’s a wonderful wish, but sometimes it can keep our children from experiences that enrich their lives.
My mother and her sister didn’t have pets when they were growing up. My grandfather had had a dog when he was a boy, and when that dog died he was devastated. He vowed that his children would never experience that pain. He made that vow out of love for his daughters, the desire to protect them from hurt. But it also meant that they did not have the responsibility or the joys of pet ownership that they might have had.
My father did have a dog when he was a boy, and there are times he still misses that dog. When any of his children bring our dogs when we visit, the expression on my father’s face says it all – he remembers the fun, the companionship, the security, and the joy his dog gave him and he finds joy in knowing that his children have that same experience.
Our dogs teach us a lot about patience, responsibility, compassion, strength and love. They teach us about caring for another sentient being, about pride in accomplishment, about finding the celebration in the moment. And they teach us about pain, and loss, and honoring a life well-lived.
I would love to spare my children pain and grief, but I cannot. And I know that those are just the other side of the coin from love and joy. I don’t know how you can have one without the risk of the other.
And I would never want to shield my children from love.
As the Garth Brooks song says:
“I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance “