I have this dog, an Australian shepherd, a herder by nature. He becomes distraught when a family member leaves the room. He leaps up to follow the flock-busting defector, then looks back at the rest of us, unsure of where he’s needed. He winds up spinning in circles, looking profoundly confused, and existentially frustrated.
We laugh at him because it’s sort of pathetic. But he can’t help it; he’s hardwired that way. And for the first time in my life, I understand it.
My 12-year-old left last week on a class trip to Europe. Parents are not invited, phone calls not permitted; it makes the students homesick to hear mom’s voice. Instead, we get daily Twitter posts with photos of the kids in front of French, Italian, and Spanish monuments.
For a year before the trip, friends told me, “You’re brave. I could never let my child do that.” I truly didn’t understand the sentiment. I mean, it’s not like they went to Libya. Frankly, I looked forward to having one less lunch to pack, and to bringing home Thai food for dinner without anyone complaining.
He was gone just one day when friends began calling: “How are you holding up?” Really? The kid isn’t touring the Daiichi nuke plant, I explained; he’s slurping gelato in Florence. How bad could it be?