Comfort in an Unusual Place
by Stephanie Weaver
When he was young, my son experienced some things that led to an anxiety disorder. I noticed early on that he would choose interacting with animals over interacting with people whenever possible. With them, he was more at ease and at peace with himself. I watched as he touched and played with them and allowed them to do the same. He whispered in their ear and told them secrets only they could be trusted with. He smiled and erupted with bubbly giggles and it warmed my heart. He had found the safety in them his fragile emotional being could find nowhere else, and he was happy.
It was no surprise when he came to me with the notion of wanting a pet of his own. I tried to pacify him with the fact that we already had animals.
“The snake is Jaylen’s and the dog is everyone’s,” he replied. “I want something that is just mine.”
I thought about this awhile. I had reservations and we had many long talks about what getting an animal would entail: attention, feeding, cleaning, etc. and he readily accepted each condition.
Fast forward eight months later. We were on our bi-weekly trip to the pet store where my son had been playing with their turtles for several months now. He played with them for a while giving little attention to anything else. On the way home he talked about how much he wanted some and that he had saved enough money to buy them. I was a little confused. I had pictured him with a dog or a cat, something he could play with and snuggle up to like I had watched him do so many times before. “Turtles?” I asked. “What would make you want turtles?”
“Because they’re just like me,” he replied.
“Just like you?” I repeated, now more confused.
“Yes. They don’t like people either,” he said looking down playing with his hands and scuffing his shoes together.
I realized he was not only looking for a pet but something he could relate to, and I could see how much it meant to him and what it could mean for him.
We ended up getting the turtles. He watches them glide through the water, dipping and coasting, narrowly avoiding crashing into each other. Feeding time becomes an art of tug of war. The look in his eyes is almost magical and he loves them as much as he could love any dog or cat. They are becoming tame. When they hiss, I hear him tell them the same words he has heard so many times before. “You’re doing good. It’s okay. Just a little while longer and you can go home.” He is trying to comfort their fears and he asks me if I think they understand him. I tell him I do. He asks me if they will ever stop being afraid. I tell him I know they will, and now secretly, I know he will too.
Stephanie Weaver is a student at Ivy Tech Community College at the Marion, Indiana Campus. She is currently pursuing her Associates in Nursing and Bachelors in Nursing concurrently. She plans to pursue a career in travel nursing.