When the boys were toddlers, I bought them a kitchen playset. There was a beautiful set of play dishes and lovely pots and pans to cook with on their play stove. They had loads of plastic foodstuffs: fruits, breads, doughnuts, sodapop, hotdogs, whole pantries of canned goods…And I do mean loads, because that’s exactly what they did with it. They loaded it into their various trucks and construction toys and dumped it in piles all over the house. Plastic food nearly drove me insane. The darling kitchenette stood forgotten and neglected. That is, until they discovered they could climb on top of it and make a mighty big boom jumping from atop.
My intention in conducting this weird social experiment was to build my boys’ character. To teach them not to be bound by traditional gender specific roles. To broaden their horizons, if you will. But, well, boys will be boys. My experiment failed miserably.
It’s taken awhile, but I’ve finally discovered one sure way to bring out the nurturing side of my sweet guys: Give them a little somebody to care for. In this case, a little furry somebody.
We rescued a dog this weekend. His name is Sherlock.
Sherlock is not your ideal houseguest. When he arrived, he was horrendously flea ridden. I was appalled at the size of the blood suckers this little guy was sporting. He is frighteningly undernourished, ribs protruding pronouncedly. Most disturbingly, he is deaf and blind. This little guy needs a Seeing Eye person. Twice he has walked off of the edge of our porch. Once he ran smack dab into one of our deck posts. He is so pathetic, it makes me sad.
But what Sherlock lacks in sensation, he more than makes up for in sweetness. I have never met a more loving dog. Perhaps it is due to the apparent neglect he has suffered, perhaps he is just naturally charming, whatever the reason, we have fallen in love with the guy.
The boys, in particular, have responded to Sherlock’s immense vulnerability. They are patiently willing to be his Seeing Eye person, slowing their pace for him, or reaching out to touch him when he seems to lose track of where he is. They stroke his belly gently and speak sweet words of love to him (which he cannot hear). They have pitched in to help in other ways, knowing that tending to Sherlock is time demanding and requires more effort on my part. Each of them has thrown himself into trying to help Sherlock gain weight and return to good health. Sherlock needs help finding his food, and his water dish. He loses them quite frequently, even in the middle of eating sometimes. The boys have amazed me in their gentle response to this lesser creature.
Alas, a wasted kitchenette! It seems that the qualities I desired to instill in my boys through the playset were infused by some other means. I’d like to believe that they were programmed with that nurturance inside of their hearts. When I think of the Garden of Eden and of God’s command to Adam to have dominion over all the living creatures…I can’t help but to wonder if the desire to care for His creatures was written on our hearts.
Whatever the reason, be it biological, environmental, or spiritual, I know a Divine hand has touched our time with Sherlock. He has been a blessing to our family, a living breathing lesson in love.