I feel cruel seeing my dog sleeping, whimpering and shaking while she dreams of something she fears. I want to comfort and love her, to assure her that it’s all okay, her people are here and will protect her, there is no predator chasing her and there is food to eat. But she needs sleep, too, and even on days I’m not working at home, I know that she sleeps and dreams like this. It’s better to leave her be, heartbreaking as it is.

How much worse for parents of actual human children, who have to see their kids go through unpleasant experiences, and let the pain happen because there’s no other way for the child to learn. Hats off to parents and may your children grow happy again soon.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. With the oldest now off to college I was recently given great advice for the parents of young adults: Unless it is a life-threatening situation, give them 24 hours to solve whatever problem comes up before you try to help.

    Some variation of this is probably aplicable to all kids, withthe timeframe diminishing the younger they are.

  2. My theory goes along these lines: the most humiliating part of disaster is watching my loved ones come in to rescue me. In a genuine emergency, that’s fine, I suppose. But if you’re an independent person like me, if the disaster was partially of my making, the worst part would be my parents coming into the picture and saving my dumb ass.

    I’m with Mike. Don’t ride in to the rescue too early. It damages something in the relationship with your kid. But more importantly, it bends the green stick of their young adulthood and leaves a mark. It’s not so much that they’ll become spongers, it’s the resentment which arises as a result of needing that help. How badly did they really need the help?

    The cure is more embarrassing than the disaster, especially to a young person. I usually sneer at all these Self-Actualisation Schemes, Self-Esteem, we’ve all seen that crapola, extolling the virtues of narcissism. But with a young adult, the cement hasn’t completely set. I don’t think it’s really fully cured until a few years after they’re out of college. It’s possible to do more damage than help if you continue the Parental Obligation schtick, no matter how much you love them.

  3. As for the dog, whimpering, her motions are probably not terror, but running around and playing in her dreams. The whining is more likely dream-barking and reg’lar ol’ dog noises.

    • I tell myself that sometimes, too — it may sound like a whimper to me, but in her dreams she’s barking and having fun chasing a rabbit or something. I may be projecting my own bad dreams onto her.

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