Last week, our family finally took the plunge and entered the world of pet ownership. This was the culmination of two years of pleading on the part of our daughter, Katy, who was desperate for a cat. But that’s another story.
We are now the proud owners of Lucky, our baby guinea pig. I know, it’s not a cat…remember, that’s another story! Lucky is just 3 months old and at the beginning of the socialization process. He’s still a bit tentative and skittish around people. He’s also extremely sensitive to the energy of those around him.
This was completely unanticipated by Ted and me. I knew that dogs were energy sensitive, but guinea pigs? I thought they mostly stayed put and munched on baby carrots. Maybe Lucky’s unique, but it turns out there’s a lot more to him than a cute wiggly nose and an endearing squeak.
If you’ve read any of my posts about emotion, you’ve probably already deduced that my children are spirited, highly sensitive individuals. They experience their emotions with more intensity than most. While this can be a good thing, making them unusually compassionate and empathetic, it also means there’s no shortage of intense energy flowing through our home on a daily basis.
My husband and I have been working with our kids for years, helping them to understand their emotions and learn to regulate their responses. We’ve tried deep breathing, muscle relaxation, yoga for kids, and calming scents, just to name a few.
Lucky brought none of these techniques to the table. He simply came bearing fuzzy cuteness and an ability to sense when to take cover. Within two days, he boasted a success rate that put us to shame.
It was truly astounding to see what this caramel-colored ball of fur could accomplish when we sat four intense children in the room and plopped him down in their midst. He was like a rodent-shaped magnet, drawn to those who were radiating calm energy, and shying away from those who were trying their best to fake it. Like a fuzzy lie-detector, there was no fooling Lucky.
Once my children realized this, they were highly motivated to get very zen. Suddenly all that deep breathing and relaxation we’d been practicing had a tangible value.
This whole thing has been especially helpful to Faith, who reacts strongly to – well, just about everything. Say or do something she wasn’t expecting, and her body literally forms the letter “C”. Her back arches and her muscles tense. Often, this is accompanied by her falling to the floor and writhing, all the while maintaining a perfectly rounded rainbow-shaped arch.
The first time she started to react that way in Lucky’s presence, he immediately retreated to his favorite hiding spot. Not expecting much, I brought Lucky’s response to Faith’s attention. Imagine my surprise when she immediately started deep breathing. Within moments, the letter “C” had been replaced with “spaghetti arms”. I could hardly believe it! What’s more, since then, every time she’s felt herself winding up, she’s caught herself and used a relaxation technique to get back to center.
It’s paid off. By the end of the week, I’d dubbed Faith our resident “guinea pig whisperer”. She’s able to get Lucky to do things nobody else can. He spends hours curled up on her chest, or, if someone else’s energy is a bit too intense, hiding under her skirt.
Not only has Faith become more aware of her own intensity, she’s also gotten really good at sensing it in others. A couple of days ago, I started to get a bit huffy over something. Before I even had a chance to start grumbling, Faith called from across the room, “Mommy, take some breaths! Lucky’s watching!” Clearly, Faith has decided that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of deep breathing in my future.