I am sitting across from Austin at a restaurant table. At home, when we sit for a meal we are perpendicular to each other; we both have to turn our heads to make eye contact. Today, that's not the case; we are face to face. Austin's eyes are laser-locked on mine. I can feel my breaths become more shallow as I anticipate the flood of words and emotions I know he is about to release.
"I feel like when you are training Bo, you do not pay attention to me," he blurts out. "I mean when you are working Bo, you walk straight and you focus on him," he clarifies. "I can't talk to you and well, I just want to be able to walk with you and talk."
His heartfelt confession pierces me and like the thorn of a pricker bush, it causes my body to wince and retract. My instinct is to rationalize, explain, justify — anything but be silent. I fight my impulse to respond with words because I know, at this moment, silence is necessary for the both of us. I remain quiet and listen to the echo of his words in my head.
The fact of the matter is, I'm guilty as charged. When I am working Bo in public, my sharp focus on him is my biggest strength and my biggest weakness. It allows me to stay tuned into his body language, anticipate his behavior and respond accordingly. Yet it prevents me from engaging (in a meaningful way) with the people and environment around me. Sometimes those people are strangers, sometimes my friends but most of the time they are my husband and son.