Yesterday, while I was taking the kids for a walk, a dog charged us and bit the stroller. I managed to wedge my way between the snarling and barking dog and my kids and just scream for help. Some lawn crew guys chased the dog off with rakes. The dog ran down the street after a high school girl walking home. And then bit an older woman, who screamed for me to call the police. I did.
I called 911, which I’m sure wasn’t the right number, but I got a new phone and haven’t reprogrammed animal control into my speed dial. Because yes, I have animal control on speed dial. I’ve been chased down by so many mean dogs in my history of running and walking through the neighborhood, that I don’t even hesitate to call.
While I talked to the dispatcher, I heard my baby was crying in the stroller. The 3-year-old seemed fine. But the baby was sobbing. The dog had been closest to him. And in my adrenaline-fueled rage, I was ready to attack the dog back, to call the police, to find the owners and tear them apart, but I had completely ignored the kids. My baby was crying. So, I got off the phone and I went to hug him.
When I first thought about writing about this, I wanted it to be a rage-fueled diatribe about people who let their dogs off leash. About people who don’t take their dog’s meanness seriously. I was once backed against a tree by a large mean dog and the owner shouted, “He won’t bite!”
I yelled back. “I don’t believe you! Get a damn leash!”
This is what I wanted to do. To rage against danger. To hunt down the things that had threatened my children and tear them to pieces. But all I can think about is that baby crying. How my first instinct should have been, not to run down the danger and seek vengeance, but to go to him. To hold him and reassure him. My baby is a wild little warrior. Never afraid to scale a summit. But he also has a tender heart. He cries when his sister cries. He cries when I pretend cry. His heart is so big and open, that is what I should have been protecting instead of lashing out. What is rage anyway? I don’t know the situation of the people who owned the dog. I don’t know how the dog got out. Rage is just a blind swinging at what very well maybe windmills.
Seeking vengeance is what is natural for me. I often find myself fighting the urge to punish and correct and give myself over to the need to comfort and console. A few nights ago, after a particularly rough bedtime, I put the 3-year-old to bed without a story. A few minutes later, she was up again, whimpering at the top of the stairs. “What is it?” I snapped.
“I just need some lovins,” she said. “You forgot to give me lovins.”
I went to her. Scooped her up. Hugged her and apologized. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I was wrong. I should have given you a kiss. I am so sorry, I was just feeling frustrated.”
“Me too,” she said. “That’s why I needed lovins.”
I had to do the same thing to the baby yesterday. I went to him and held him. I knelt by the stroller and reassured my kids. “We are okay. You are brave. Mommy is here to protect you.”
But it isn’t just with them, is it? I’m struck by how often I find myself cowering in a corner and instead of taking the time to grieve or find grace, I stomp off in search of vengeance. There is a person who has hurt my family dearly. I find myself often stalking him on social media. Finding new ways to get angry at him at his selfishness and narcissism, that will continue to wound those around me for years.
When we came home from our walk in the park, I realized, I needed to stop that. That I was making myself miserable, swinging with blind rage, out with my pitchfork, hunting down sinners, instead of where I needed to be, comforting the girl in me who was crying.
A friend once told me that after she told her family about her rape, her father went out to hunt down the man who did that to her. She told me that instead of reassuring her, it made her feel awful. Because there she was, wounded and aching, and she needed something better than rage.
Her words are like a beacon for me as I try to navigate these threatening places with myself and children. Yes, rage has a place. I now have mace on my key chain and attached to the stroller. I hope I don’t have to use it. But the mace isn’t the point. The point is that I need to give my children and myself something better than rage.