At this rate, my panicked head calculated, he will become a teenager before I've had the chance to develop strong relational bonds with him, and then he'll prefer the company of his peers over mine, and I'll lose whatever influence I could've ever hoped to have had over him, and he'll fall down a pit of depression and addiction and/or video gaming and drugs! AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!
So after I got my heart rate back down to normal, I told the Spouse I wanted to institute special one-on-one times with the kids. We'll each take a kid once a week or so and hang out with them for about 2 hours. No chores. No errands. Just being together.
And so that's just what we did.
We told the kids about the upcoming "dates" and Judah especially was happily anticipating it. Just to see him looking forward to it so much made me feel already that (a) this was a good thing to do and (b) long over due. Noah was like, meh, whatever.
|Judah looks so happy to not have Noah around, ha!|
I decided to take Judah hiking since he loves nature and becomes much more unguarded in the woods. We talked about school and he told me how everything was going well except that it was hard for him to find play mates during recess.
He asked why nobody wanted to play with him. Why some kids were popular but he was not. He shared how bad he feels when everyone walks back to class in groups of twos and threes while he faces the long walk of shame alone.
Once he asked his classmates to wait for him so that he could go back and get his water bottle but no one waited. He described that incident with a rhetorical flourish I will always remember with pride - Mommy, today, I felt like dust. Dust!
Great simile son!
I asked Judah what things I could do to make him feel more loved. He seems so different from my familiar toddler/preschooler who loved huggle snuggles and asked incessantly for me to play with him. He asks for so little now, I don't really know what he needs anymore.
But much to my surprise he replied, Hugs and kisses!
Well, I guess somethings don't change all that quickly. I guess what I interpreted as a diminished need for physical affection was really just a big kid feeling like his mom was too busy to sit and hug for awhile. Which wouldn't be wrong. But should be fixed.
After our walk, I let him chose where to eat and he predictably chose his favorite "restaurant" - Starbucks, and ordered his favorite "meal" - cream cheese and bagel and a chocolate croissant. Our kids are on the opposite of the low-carb diet, obviously.
The entire time, he was aglow in a way that I haven't seen for a long time. He was happy. Really, really happy. Beaming, actually.
And even after our date, the after-glow continued for several days. He was much more affectionate than usual and called me his "date-buddy" frequently. It's a little weird, but also very sweet.
I was surprised when sometime in the middle of our date, he did something he hadn't done for over a year--stooped down to pick a flower for me.
I thought we were done with that phase. The phase where he showers me with love scribbles and flowering weeds and loves me to the moon and back and needs lots of assurance that I feel the same way.
But no, we're not. And I'm so glad for it...and to have found that out before it was too late.