Between the years 1891 - 1900, Dr. Ivan Pavlov was studying the salivation rate of dogs, because, well, who doesn’t? He noticed that his dogs started salivating when his assistant merely showed up, well before he even brought out the food. Dr. Pavlov went on to show that an animal can be conditioned. By ringing a bell, the scientist proved that the dog was physiologically anticipating food simply because of a sound.
But, have you ever wondered how Pavlov’s DOG felt when he heard the bell? I can imagine him thinking, “Nope, I’m not going to do it. Not this time. When he rings that stupid bell, I will not salivate.”
And then the bell rings, and suddenly he’s standing in a puddle of drool. He can’t help it. He’s not as in control as he would like. I have a trigger too, although thankfully, it doesn’t cause me to drool.
When Madison was about 15 months old, Paul’s high school buddy and his family invited us to spend the weekend at their rustic cabin down in Kershaw. When we arrived we put Madi in a backpack-style child carrier, and we all hiked through the woods and to the lake. It was a fabulous time, but then it started to rain. We went back to the cabin, put the babies down for naps, and the adults sat on the porch, drank coffee, talked and listened to the rain as it drummed on the metal roof.
It was an amazing trip. I relaxed in a way that I thought I had forgotten how to with a baby in the house. But during that rain, I slowed down and paid attention to nature. I listened to the rain fall, watched it splash on the leaves, felt the wind bring droplets of water on my face and hands, smelled the dampness of the pine needles and moss surrounding the cabin.
At home after that, every time it rained I would grab Madi, scoop her up in my arms and run to the sunroom where we could listen to the sound of rain on the roof.
I think I conditioned both myself and Madi. As she got a little older, when it rained she would start shouting my name, find me, grab my hand and pull me to the sunroom where she would plop in my lap and snuggle up.
As a very energetic child, the quiet time spent listening never lasted very long; soon she was wiggling and up again. But there was one time when she listened really hard; she got quiet and her breathing slowed. I looked down, and she was fast asleep in my arms. It probably only lasted 20 minutes, but that is one of my favorite memories.
Yesterday I arrived home from a trip to my mom’s. It was sprinkling a little as I unloaded my car and hustled and bustled around the house getting ready for work. I was putting some books up and opened the door to the sunroom. It was pouring, and I was greeted by a symphony of rain tapping a melody on the roof. It might as well have been Pavlov’s bell.
For a second I couldn’t catch my breath. I was immediately transported back almost 20 years, when that little hand would hold mine as we listened.
I worry that sometimes as parents, as spouses, as friends, we aren’t working hard enough at slowing down and making those lasting memories with our loved ones. The world is rushing faster and faster, carrying us on a current of busyness. It’s so much easier to give priority to the laundry and dinner and meetings than it is to give it to quiet and calmness. We don’t have to take exotic trips and have lavish experiences to have a wonderful time and make lasting memories; sometimes we just need to stop and listen.