So I have this five-year old son who is terrified of dogs. Think mind-numbing screams at the very site of a dog blocks away. Most of my dog-walking neighbors quickly cross the street should they see us coming - not out of consideration for my phobic son, but rather to spare their dogs' highly sensitive ears from the piercing onslaught of screams and hysteria. There is no doubt he harbors an intense anxiety towards our four legged friends. I've probably failed some mothering test by not ridding him of this fear years ago, so go ahead and start my mom failure tally (as far as this blog is concerned) at 1.
Which brings us to today. As we pulled scooters and bikes from the depths of our garage this glorious Chicago Spring day, we plan a trip to the Mecca of childhood - our neighborhood park. After only 15 minutes of catching up with last year's summer buddies, a woman approaches with her untethered golden retriever. Before I get lambasted (should anyone actually be reading this), I do like dogs. I know most dogs are friendly and would not eat my son. But there is no explaining logic to one steeped in aversion and a firm belief that all dogs are secretly lying in wait to take him to the netherworld.
The screaming begins. My son claws desperately at my arms to lift him to safety. His three year old baby brother is running at the mongrel shouting out "here dogggggie" and quickly grabs its tail as though it's a giant fuzzy rattle. My older son tries to shush his embarrassing brother as there are other 1st grade classmates to impress and his screaming brother is ruining his rep.
And then it happens. The Dog Mom just looks at me. Like I am entirely responsible for this display of hysterics (I'll give her 50% out of pure mom guilt, but I wouldn't dare take on the whole enchillada). Her accusing stare is trying to negate the possibility that it is not acceptable to to bring a large, unleashed dog to a Chicago park full of 1-7 year olds with a sign that clearly reads "No Dogs."
I shuffle my three wee ones to another section of the park, and wouldn't you know it? Ten minutes later, indignant Dog Mom and her dinosaur (as far as my son is concerned) are approaching our exile. And this is where I'm glad to be friends with an atheist. My friend who has two kids playing at the park who are highly allergic to dogs, steps in the path of Dog Mom and braces for a throw down. Her voice remains calm, but her manner and stance were obvious: the dog was not coming one step closer even if it resulted in incarceration and/or eternal damnation (though being an atheist, probably not a big concern). Dog Mom, knowing that the other mom had sensed her blink, apologetically redirects her dog away. My son of course continues to cry uncontrollably for another 1/2 hour as a result of post traumatic stress.
So here's the thing. I know moms are distracted. Heck, when registering for summer camp the other day, I almost walked out without my 3 year old who had been playing happily on an indoor slide. I know we're not always aware of our impact on others because we are in fact so distracted. I know we make a million mistakes daily, but can I just put it out there that parks and dogs will lead me only to a place where I might not make it to heaven. Not that my chances are that great now....