David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

A @#$%&*! Puppy?

Turns out one of my Running Buddies has an actual “job“ of some kind that involves her doing “work”. Apparently, part of her grown-up life entails given lectures about the widgets—or possibly grommets—produced by her company. 

We’ve only been sweating together in the dark for the past 20 years so you can’t expect me to know every detail of what she does when the sun comes up. Something about producing a product or providing a service of some kind perhaps. 

I do understand that she’s giving a lecture in Vermont next week where, as she has mentioned over the years, her adult son and—as of last month—his new wife reside. 

She asked her son if she could stay with him. Not that she can’t afford a hotel. Her company produces and sells any number of widgets or grommets. But she was hoping to re-create some of those lovely parenting moments—the morning cup of coffee, the pleasant, gentle conversation before bed. There’s just something about casual intimacy that allows unforced communication. She was eager to walk around in her pajamas, maybe even look at old family photos or drift into stories about when her son showed up to middle school having forgotten his backpack.

Her son said that, although he and his wife were looking forward to seeing her, that they would prefer she get a nearby hotel. He mentioned a new puppy who is nervous around strangers.

My friend had the following thought: are you out of your ever-loving mind? A new, shy puppy? The way to acclimate a new puppy to strangers is by having strangers come on by and give the puppy some love. She went on to think, with more expletives, that the least her son could do would be to put the puppy in say, the kitchen, and make room for his mom to come hang out. What a pathetic excuse! A puppy? You’re more concerned about some critter of another species than your own flesh and blood? A hotel down the road? Noooo!

Before she said anything hurtful, she went on to think, without curse words, of why her son might not welcome her in his first out-of-grad school home. 

Maybe his new wife would feel judged. Maybe the young couple were concerned that the house wasn’t fancy enough. Maybe they had other friends to whom they had committed for a visit. Maybe they just wanted to spend alone time together. (They are newlyweds after all.) Maybe they had spent a lot of time with mom at the wedding and felt that was enough for now. Maybe they had work commitments that they felt would preclude them from entertaining mom.

When my Running Buddy, the mom, was mentioning these plausible, rival hypotheses, she pointed to her tongue and said, “it looks like ground beef doesn’t it? I’ve been biting my tongue, so hard, I’m concerned it’s still in my mouth.”

Which I thought made a lot of sense. Her son and his wife are looking forward to seeing her. They have some meals planned, one in a restaurant, one at their home. They’re even going to take off returning work emails Saturday morning and go for a hike in the mountains. My friend is going to look at the glass as being 90% full.

Mick Jagger probably meant to sing “you can’t always get *precisely* what you want from your kids but focus on the positives rather than being overbearing and hurtful by pushing the point” but that expanded lyric, like this sentence, would have gone on much too long and been both ponderous and harder to harmonize. 

Our kids have their own lives and their own reasons. At every age. Determining the “why” beneath their behaviors is good work if you can get it, but as Stephen Vincent Benet points out in his prescient 1937 short story By the Waters of Babylon, truth is a hard deer to hunt.

Steven Vincent Benet

My Running Buddy had apparently internalized two of my favorite  precepts: a bad settlement is better than a good lawsuit. That is to say, that by keeping her mouth shut and accepting both her children and their offer she came away with half a loaf, which, in addition to being better than none can be pretty yummy. And, “your kids are probably doing the best they can.” Kids usually are. 

I look forward to hearing about her trip. I bet it’s going to be great. 

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David Altshuler 2

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