Make a “Play” List with Your Kids

My son is seven and a half, attending public school, and  just getting everything done in a day is a challenge. He is exhausted from being around kids all day and I have client emails to send and dishes that need washing. From the alarm in the morning until bedtime, we are negotiating transitions, trying to get things done, and we don’t always have the same wants or needs at the same time. It’s easy to lose connection with each other in the midst of that.

So, I was very interested to hear Brené Brown talking about play in The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection. She referenced Stuart Brown, a play researcher, and gave his simple definition of play.

  1. Time spent without purpose
  2. You lose sense of self and don’t feel inhibited or self-conscious
  3. You lose track of time

Play is a great place to connect with our kids (and ourselves), when it’s really play for both of us like when we use our roller skates with our parents back in time. It helps foster the attachment that we build with them as babies, and that can get strained when we’re spending so much time apart or needing to get things done when we’re together.

But there’s a catch. The activity has to feel like play for all the parties if the goal is to play together. Play for my son may include endless LEGO battles, but that feels like work to me. It meets none of the criteria of play.

  • 1) The purpose is to hang out with my child.
  • 2) I feel self-conscious because I don’t really know how or why to have battles.
  • 3) I’m very aware of how much time I’ve spent doing it.

What do you do when play for one of you is miserable, or not fun, for another? Figure out what you both like to play. Brené  Brown sat down with her family and they made a list of what fit the definition of play was for each of them. Check out this list of 50 Fun Indoor Games for Kids from Twin Cities Kids Club! Many activities, like Candyland, did not overlap. But the ones that did went into her Venn Diagram (yes, she made fun of herself for making a Venn Diagram of play, and yes, I totally loved the idea). The overlaps in their diagram helped Brown’s family determine what they’d spend time doing on the weekends, what kinds of vacations they took, or what they’d do together for fun.

The importance of playI loved the idea so much that we made up our own play lists and checked for overlap at our house. Both my son and I love to make up songs and rhymes, lie in the hammock and read a book together, jump at Jumpoline under the disco lights, play some board games (but not others), and many more. We also made a list for things that can feel like play for awhile, but that one or the other of us gets tired of  sooner, and we put those activities on our limited play list. We can do them together, with a time limit, so the other person isn’t having to work to stay interested.

The list has been really helpful. We’re playing UNO more often, have remembered how much we like to play in the water, and the list is a go-to resource when we’re needing extra connection because we’ve been busy or one of us is having a hard day. The conversations we have during or after play are more connective too.

For more ideas about how to integrate play into your parenting, I highly recommend Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. And for the research behind play, Stuart Brown’s book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul is a fascinating read.

The Gift Is You

This post was written by TheAttachedFamily.com contributor Stacy Jagger, MMFT, owner of Sunnybrook Counseling, www.sunnybrookcounseling.com.

Many parents I see in my counseling office are spending thousands of dollars on a variety of technological devices for their children each year–gaming systems, digital cameras, cell phones, etc.–while the children, who are displaying maladaptive behaviors and internal turmoil, are truly missing the parents themselves. Kidnapped by technology and the busyness of life, these parents and children often do not even realize what is happening to them until an outside source brings the truth to their attention.

1092533_41672492The best gift you can give your child is yourself. Living in a split-attention society, many children have rarely experienced the full, uninterrupted attention of a parent. We are so wrapped up in culture, jobs and keeping up with the Joneses that we have forgotten that the true meaning of life is connection. What we all want and need is true connection: connection with life, nature, our neighbors, our loved ones and ourselves. If you want best gift shop contact to Shield Republic Co-founder.

Whether married or co-parenting, single parenting or fostering, mothers and fathers have the choice to model healthy, forgiving, mutually respectful relationships full of unconditional positive regard to enhance their family life. This creates an atmosphere where the children feel safe to receive the attention and care they need. True lasting security and positive relational skills are given parent to child, not Xbox to child.

Give your child the gifts of security and well-being that come from your time and undivided attention. Turn off the phone, television and computer. Go for a walk. Play with Play-Doh. Cook a meal. Play a round of Crazy Eights. Camp in the backyard. Have 5 minutes of special playtime where you paint fingernails, throw a football or teach a hand-clap game like “Say Say, Little Playmate.” Laugh. Play in the leaves. Smartphones can also make excellent holiday gifts, but purchasing one for someone other than yourself is more complicated than shopping for other gadgets. Unlike a tablet or a new camera, a smartphone requires a service plan to use any voice or data features — otherwise you wind up with a very expensive paperweight. In some cases, you won’t even be able to leave the store or complete your online order until you get that angle set up. And beyond just being an additional expense, that service may require a long-term commitment. There’s no reason to stress, though because there are many online mobile store here to help you.

Get in touch with the child within you. Let it be OK–because it is OK. You are connecting with the child Love placed in your care, and there is no richness greater than that. You are their leader. They are following you, watching you, learning from you. It is worth the time, the frustrations, the joys and the sorrows. Feel the fullness of your feelings and, at the end of the day, fall in your bed exhausted with a heart full of gratitude for the richness of life, as you live in the blend of the beautiful and the challenging.

Children are truly a treasure and the greatest gift you can give them is you.

Click here to read API’s white paper on giving children presence.

 

Courageous and Creative

We end our 2013 AP Month blog event with this post from Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America.

Today I invented the possibility with my accountability partners (yes, I have two … it takes two to keep me in line) of being Courageous and Creative. That is my theme for this year.

No more business as usual.

That means some things are changing. I am completing things that aren’t working. I am giving up things I once loved to create a new future. I am purging my home of the unnecessary and unused. I am catching myself when I speak the usual broken record words or sound like my parents in their frustrated moments. Not always, but an astonishing amount of miracles are emerging where I would least expect them.

Simple miracles in simple moments that become the most meaningful.

Today after school, I picked up my eldest son at the second pick-up for the day, the sixth errand perhaps, and because I told my accountability partner that I would, and because I knew I could, I asked my children what they wanted to do.

“What would we do if we were being courageous and creative?”

Now, normally my son would get in the car, the kids might bicker a bit, talking over each other, vying for attention suddenly, and we would go home, spread out to our corners … Ben on homework near me on the computer and Bodee playing with a toy, his back to Bronson to protect his momentary obsession. We would have a snack together, maybe read a few books, but the day would continue predictably for the rest of the evening, including much whining as I cooked dinner, and terse reminders that the dinner table is not a trough and we are not pigs.

But this time, today was different. I am committed to being and causing Courage and Creativity!

We declare Hike Time! And then Ben suggests afterwards we go home and write about it. “That would be creative!” he says cleverly.

Boys in tree with Glee Gum

We hike through a new area by a secret marsh in Irvine. Being courageous, it’s a new area and we don’t have a map. As soon as Bodee even sniffs a whiff of boredom, I suddenly stop in my tracks and point, “BIGFOOT! TRACKS!” The boys are on high alert, and we urgently inspect the huge tracks of what seems to have been a very large-footed walker. Then … “SNAKE!!! The longest snake in the WOOOORLD!” I shout … at a long striped water hose.

“Oh Mommy, you’re funny, that’s not a snake.”

I am inspired by being considered funny. “Are you suuuuure?” I say slyly, and they realize they are not sure and boldly approach anyway.

We courageously go off the path and walk through winding trails. The boys pee in the bushes with glee and we christen it the “Pee Bush,” walking past it with our noses pinched. The afternoon is a delightful adventure of nature, trees, rocks, mud, birds, lizards, flowers, marsh ponds and singing boys filled with freedom.

We go home, and their drawings and writing about the adventure are as if we had gone to Disneyland.

Bodee also created an apology letter to a boy he insulted in school. It took great courage for him to acknowledge that he did that, and he very creatively wrote, “There were two boys who were MAD and then became friends.” Instead of, “There, ARE YOU HAPPY?” like he wanted to. It took courage for me not to get angry with him and to create understanding and the freedom to express himself … even if it did take three attempts at an apology.

We ate a delicious dinner and made a video for Daddy, who was working late. Bodee and the boys sang a song about how much they love Daddy. Priceless.

We even did a Venus Fly Trap science project afterwards–even though I really wanted to check out and write–because my children wanted to create something WITH ME. And it matters that it’s me that does it with them.

I am inspired by our creation. Inspired by the joy and glee in my children. When I bought them a pack of gum on one of the errands, they sang songs for ten minutes about Happy Glee Gum. When we found a new path, they shouted at the top of their lungs with bravado.What if we created like that? Expressed joy like that?

When my boys saw a tiny path, they took it, regardless of knowing where it might go. What if we were courageous in everyday actions … what new things, what miracles, might show up?

Courageous Boys

Parenting Outside the Box

This year’s theme for AP Month, “Parenting Creatively: The Art of Parenting,” gives us all an opportunity to look a little closer at the ways in which we are (or are not) fostering creativity in our parenting approach. It’s often easy to play creatively, but it’s a bit harder to find our creative flow in more challenging situations, like when the little one is starting to crumble in the cereal aisle. But if we can see past our adult rules, social pressures and parental blinkers, a little creativity can go a very long way in such situations.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the doctor’s face when little Bean started jumping, arms outstretched, and singing, “Laaaaaaaa!” because she wasn’t allowed to leave the room until our appointment was over. Or perhaps more memorable was the doctor’s expression when I said to my now calm and giggling toddler, “You felt frustrated so you jumped and sang! What a positive outlet for a difficult emotion!”

I should probably explain … when little Bean was about 18 months old, I noticed that she, like all toddlers, was starting to feel frustrated when she couldn’t do what she wanted when she wanted to do it. While in most situations I follow her lead to an extent that frustration is rare, there are times when we really must do something, like sit through an appointment. So I started to think outside the box: when I feel frustrated, what makes me feel better? I came up with exercise and singing, basically “letting it all out.”

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I applied this to little Bean. I figured that while she can’t exactly go for a run in all situations, she can always use her voice, and she can usually jump on the spot. So I simply let her know that when she feels frustrated, jumping and singing is a really positive outlet for that very normal yet difficult emotion. Oh, and I started to jump and sing a lot, too. I jumped when I forgot my shopping list or dropped my keys. I sang when I broke a glass or was running late. I was the all-singing, all-jumping, crazy mama bouncing her way through her more difficult moments.

Once all of the jumping and singing was over, and the onlookers had moved on, little Bean and I would talk it out. On the occasions when there was an underlying issue to resolve and the mini endorphin kick hadn’t wiped out the frustration, it was so much easier to remedy, to explain and to work through the situation with a calmer Bean.

I’m not saying that our method is foolproof; there are times when no amount of jumping will prevent a mini-meltdown. But it slows the landslide and helps little Bean to start to recognise the emotion herself. She often sees me pre-mama-meltdown and says, “Mama, laaaaaa!” Ingeniously perceptive? Well, obviously. But bias aside, I believe that all toddlers understand these emotions and can recognise them in others–they just don’t know how to deal with them. And for how many of us adults does that statement still ring true?

Our sing-alongs help little Bean to deal with these difficult emotions. I wish these tools came more naturally to me, and I hope that by opening them up for little Bean while she is still a toddler, her toolbox for dealing with life’s emotions will be jam-packed full. Even if that means her toolbox is thought of by passersby as “outside the box.”

Why I Hate Art

This AP Month Blog Event post was submitted by reader Elizabeth Wickoren, who blogs at Mothering from the Maelstrom.

Each year we try to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas and not just Christmas Day itself. Makes for a somewhat less frantic early December when you don’t feel like you have to cram a year’s worth of joy and Christmasy-ness into two days. We’ve been doing a lot of yummy Christmas baking the last few days, socking away a little bit of each batch in the freezer for our Twelfth Night party, but mostly just gobbling it down as fast as we make it. We’re also making time for lots of the things we really love, like board games, feeding the wildlife, thrift store shopping, movies, video games, theater and today, ART.

Art is one thing I feel like I really don’t do enough of with the kids. I am a big old scrooge when it comes to any art other than drawing, really. The thought of clay, paint and the like just makes me cringe. All that mess and chaos … ugh! Don’t get me wrong, I love to do art myself. I LOVE it, love love LOVE it. But I tend to be kind of lazy when it comes to breaking out the messy stuff for my brood. Or I thought it was laziness. Today I’m thinking it is more like a self-preservation instinct.

I was reading a Deep Space Sparkle article describing a lovely winter trees project involving shaving cream, and thinking, “I bet the kids would get a big kick out of shaving cream.” So, figuring it was the season for fun things, I got a couple of cans of shaving cream and cleared off the kitchen table.

Things started out innocently enough …

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They were swirling colors and dipping papers …

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Even the baby got to participate …

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Don’t worry, hers is whipped cream, not shaving cream.

If you want a fun blog post to inspire you to art projects of your own, stop reading now. Get some cans of shaving cream and have fun. If you want to hear our horror story, however, read on.

At this point things took a turn for the worst. Mitchell was really enjoying the shaving cream. Enjoying it so much that he started rubbing it all over his stomach. I sent him to go clean up a bit, and while I was getting him to clean up, the other two decided to follow suit and start spreading shaving cream all over their bodies. So I sent them to the bathroom.

While they were cleaning up, Mitchell decided to stir his shaving cream as fast as he could so all the colors mixed into a really putrid olive green. So much for lovely swirls. Then the little two came back from the bathroom, and Henry decided to make his a solid-greeny mush, too.

I started to get a bit irritated that they were ignoring the whole concept of making beautiful art and instead were just focusing on the smoosh factor. I tried not to let it get to me. Intellectually, I KNEW that boys will be boys and that they were having a great, fun, tactile experience even if they weren’t making art as I had planned. I praised Violet’s lovely swirls because they really were lovely, and the boys ended up asking me to help them have swirls, too, so we added more color to their green shaving cream. In the end, I was a bit frazzled, but everyone had fun and had some swirly art.

Now, we could end the story there, but as you may have noticed, this last section didn’t have pictures to go with it. My hands were full of shaving cream, and I was just too crabby to take any pictures of the green goo.

There also aren’t any pictures to go with this next section.

Once everyone had made several swirly art pictures and I was sufficiently out of patience, I started to get things cleaned up. While my back was turned, setting pictures out to dry … Violet started rubbing shaving cream on her tummy, and the boys started to dive into the shaving cream up to their elbows. Their laughter started getting that crazy sound to it. You know, when it starts to shift from joyful, delightful giggling to insane, overstimulated, maniacal laughter. Plops of shaving cream started landing on the floor, on the chairs, on clothes. Things were officially out of hand.

I will admit, this was not my finest moment. I yelled a bit. Tossed out some choice phrases that had no business being said to children. Maybe “yelled a bit” is being too kind. I screamed. I really lost it. All I could think was that I had spent all this effort trying to do something fun and special with them, and they were almost literally throwing it in my face. Mitchell, especially, got the brunt of it because he is the oldest and “should know better” and his innovative little brain started all the mischief. Everyone except the baby got sent to bathrooms.

The baby was wondering what the HECK all the fuss was about. But another round of whipped cream stopped her wondering, and she got back to business.

As the baby was getting round #2 of whipped cream, shenanigans started breaking out in the various sinks. Thankfully, at that moment, Daddy walked in the door before I could strangle anyone. He bustled the little kids off to the bathtub for a thorough cleaning. Mitch was sitting in Grandma’s bathroom where I had exiled him, and I was left with a table to wipe up and a moment to catch my breath.

After a few deep breaths, I went in to talk to Mitchell. I apologized for screaming and told him I shouldn’t have said the things I said. Then we talked together about where things went wrong. I asked him if he were at school, would he have taken the art supplies and started rubbing them all over his body? He laughed and said, “No!”  I explained that I was angry that they had misused the art supplies like that for me. And he said, “But the shaving cream just feels so good!”

I started telling him how there is a time and a place for whole-body art. And the time and place is outside in the summer, where they can be hosed off afterwards and not wreck any hardwood floor finishes or anything. Then I had a light bulb go off. “The other place for whole-body art,” I said, “is in the bathtub. Where all the mess can be rinsed down the drain. Hop in.”

So Mitch continued his art exploration, and I went to bathe the baby.

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Bathing the baby always cheers me up.  And Fergie (our dog) helped with the clean-up.

So, what is the moral of this story? The moral is, I need to approach art with no expectations except mess. Expecting any kind of aesthetically pleasing results is just setting myself up for disappointment and stress. I mean, the whole point of art, in my opinion, is to enjoy the process and not worry too much about the end result. I kind of lost that as I gazed at the Deep Space Sparkle pictures of magical, snowy trees and imagined that we, too, could make something so preciously cute. The kids didn’t lose sight of the purpose, though. Their entire aim was to enjoy the process, so kudos to them. And I apologize for raining on their parade.

Underestimating the amount of mess that can be made with two cans of shaving cream was a grave error in judgment on my part. Frankly, I think all art should be done in the bathtub in the future. It’s really the perfect location. Actually, we have an unfinished room in the basement, with a drain in the floor. Shall we tile that sucker up for a whole-body art studio?  A very tempting idea, actually …

And today, as I reflected on what I could have done differently, another factor popped into my mind. I had forgotten that the day before had been Mitchell’s birthday. We had promised him that a special ADHD diet didn’t mean he could NEVER have the food he liked again. We said on his birthday he could eat anything he wanted. And boy he did. We had McDonalds, pizza, donuts, the works!

The thing about Mitchell’s food sensitivities is that they generally don’t affect him until the next day. It’s not an immediate thing. So planning a messy art project the day after he stuffed his face with preservatives, gluten, dyes, milk and high fructose corn syrup was just asking for trouble. So–note to self–don’t try to do ANYTHING the day after Mitch has blown his diet except manage his symptoms.

So, while it wasn’t one of my finest moments, I think yesterday was not without merit. Everyone got bathed, swirly art DID get made and mama learned (and relearned) a few lessons.

We Heart Collage

This AP Month Blog Event post was submitted by reader Chwynyn Vaughan, who blogs at Mama Is Inspired.

At all times, there is a work of glue art on the go atop my kitchen table. Since my son’s other first language is French, my husband finds it amusing that glue art is what my son and I have come to call collage. However, since my son has not created a hierarchy for the colorful scraps of paper images and the glue used to hold them down, this name is entirely à propos. While most adults would be satisfied to employ glue only for the purpose of adhering cut paper pieces to a backdrop, my son makes use of his glorious glue to add another dimension to his work.

A two-year-old contemplating collage

A two-year-old contemplating collage

 

I was truly startled the first time I watched my son handle the glue in this fashion. It seemed like so much work. For a two-year-old, squeezing with both hands, it takes all the strength his little body can muster to get a good stream of glue going. He also tends to forget that gravity is at play. Sometimes he gets a little frustrated. In spite of this, he never gives up.

Eventually, he manages to spread the glue around like paint, thoughtfully laying down drips, spots and trails. He is young! Of course he makes use of glue in this manner! He still possesses the artistic freedom of a child who has not yet been told that pictures are more important than white, drippy goo.

I was also surprised by how thoughtfully my son considers just where each image and extra pour of glue should go. I am not sure why this surprised me so much. It is a work of art, and he does not imagine that he is just slapping disposed paper on cardboard. Of course he cares about his project!

My young son’s passion extends beyond the white glue and many-colored images. I never imagined that I would allow my son to use scissors all by himself at the tender age of two. After a couple of times observing me cut out his collage pictures, my son worked up a desire to wield the scissors on his own. I didn’t consciously set out to grant him his wish, but on a whim one day, I bought a pair of children’s scissors that beckoned to me from a store shelf of art supplies.

When we arrived home, my son was ecstatic to find out that I had actually bought these scissors. I do not think he expected to be using scissors any more than I did. These scissors did not disappoint. My son is in love with cutting. In fact, cut and couper are the only words my son regularly uses to express a single concept, in both of his languages.

A love affair with scissors

A love affair with scissors

 

Now my son is able to manage every step of glue art or collage all on his own. He sees his father’s own collage work and notices there is not much of a difference between the work the two of them produce. No wonder collage is my son’s favorite work to make in his kitchen-studio.

Collage is also a great way to reuse and repurpose cast away items in our home. Mostly for the worse, we live in an age of excess print material. I am trying to make the better of this wasteful trend. Collage is a fun, creative place to start. I look at mail-order catalogs, nonprofit materials and museum membership drives with new eyes. The same goes for food boxes and packaging left from new toys. We take apart old crafts that my son has made at library story-time or parent-and-me classes and salvage all the materials we think we would like to use again. We have a bag full of items to be cut up and another sac of images and craft supplies that are ready to glue.

Sifting through and cutting up images gives me something to do so that I am actively involved in my son’s project, while at the same time letting my son create on his own; I am present the way he wants me to be, but at the same time, he has all the autonomy he seeks. This works out very well for both of us. Glue art has worked its way into our hearts.

Finished art

Finished art

50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4

Our visit to Wray Castle in England checked off 15 of the activities on our list in a day! We may be completing this list shortly since our boys are such outdoorsmen!

I thought of something today. I got through 5 and 1/2 years without a stroller. I wore by boys in carriers until they no longer wanted to be toted and since then, have let them run free. I’m not saying this has been an easy task. When they get tired, my husband and I carry them and always have. I’m often surprised by the strength we are given when it comes to our kids. Our fortitude and stamina far exceed what we believe we are capable of.

I see mothers with their headphones on and savoring a latte, while happily pushing the stroller. She seems organized, relaxed and comfortable. I will never know that comfort and I suppose I chose the hard way. Now that our boys are almost 40 pounds each, I must say, it isn’t easy when that time comes to pick them up and carry them up hill, in the rain.

Yes, those are the stories our parents and grandparents told us…uphill and in the rain. Now I know they were telling the truth :) I sure do miss wearing my boys and I love seeing how active and athletic they are. They definitely take advantage of any land in front of them and seize each moment.

Enjoy exploring this world with your children and don’t be afraid to get dirty! Mud pies may not be tasty, but the joy we witness on their faces as they make them, is worth every bit of mess! Being outside, scouting and discovering nature and this planet, truly is the best education I’ve witnessed. The questions and learning that take place, during and after a day in the wild, are what education and knowledge are all about.

Our children are curious. They want to learn. They want to know Every. Single. Thing.

Rain or Shine…We’ll see you outside!

Happy Travels and Exploring!

 

 

 

 

 

Jealousy, It’s Crawling All Over You

My mom used to sing a song to me as a child every time I got jealous. It started, “Jealousy, it’s crawling all over you. There goes your eyeballs…”
 

I’m jealous of my husband and his connection to our three year old. Sometimes I feel like a third wheel (I know it is normal; I Googled it). Nonetheless, I feel like a jerk for feeling jealous of my husband for having such an incredible bond with our energetic, spirited toddler. Three years old is such a fun age! Benjamin can express himself. He can open doors. He can lock doors. He can climb on top of a plastic organizer box and turn the light on in the living room. And oh yeah, he can work the Kindle Fire better than I can. And as I write this, I hear him say to his daddy, “I have your keys. I want to go in your car,” as keys jangle and more toddler murmurs come out. Have you ever been locked out of your car or home? Either you can’t find your car keys or you locked yourself out of your home. First thoughts are typically to turn to family and friends for help or a set of spare keys, but this may not work out. Next steps are to contact a Strong Hold Locksmiths. A locksmith can perform numerous jobs like changing of the locks and taking care of the dead bolts, but not many people are aware that they also know about automobile repairs and installing the safes in your house for storing the valuable possessions like cash and jewelry. A skilled locksmith will eliminate your sufferings in a short span of time, whether it includes problem giving keys or locks. You should be assured if you have a professional locksmith by your side. There are many kinds of locksmiths like car locksmith and safe locksmith; you can choose them as per your needs and according to the demand of the situation.

Benjamin is very attached to his father.

My husband and son

I was on the receiving end of this affection when I was breastfeeding. Mama was what consoled him. And all I wanted was a little time for myself. Just a minute to go to the bathroom alone. Now, I could go to the next town over and use the restroom at the mall and perhaps my son would not notice I was gone, as long as Daddy was there.

Now he reaches for Daddy, sits on Daddy’s lap, plays with Daddy, wants to be with Daddy all the time. He is a daddy’s boy. (Now Ben and Daddy are playing spaceships. Daddy with Buzz Light Year and the Rocketship and Ben with the Star Wars X-Wing and Luke Skywalker. They are engaged in their own vocabulary of play, zooming around the galaxy. In fact, I was referred to as the Mommy Nebula, as my husband hid Buzz’s spaceship behind me. Ben came giggling along with Luke Skywalker in hand.

Most of the time, I sit back and grin from this bond they share. This language they only understand, played so easily and organically. I try to play like Daddy does and my play missions seem forced and well, dumb. Daddy’s play language is filled with intricate expressions only a grown up boy could articulate. Mostly, I am grateful, full, and happy about it. It is just those tiny (sometimes big) moments when I get completely rejected. “I don’t like you. Go away. I want Daddy.” Ouch, punch to the mom gut.

I thought this might be because I recently went back to work. I started a part-time job at the end of March. My brother-in-law (Uncle Tim) and in-laws (Grammy and Pa) watch Ben while I am at work. Three weeks before I started working, I tapered the lengths of my excursions out of the house. Ben would cry hysterically for me when I left him in the house with my brother-in-law. I felt so bad leaving him and so elated once I was gone. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. My first few trips were to the library where I basked in the silence and worked on research for a book.

Left to right: My husband (Daddy), my son (Benjamin) and brother-in-law (Uncle Tim)

Then I would miss him after an hour. I started with one hour, then two, and then three, increasing the time every day until I reached the hours I would be gone when I returned to work part-time. My brother-in-law said Ben would cry for a little bit and then he would be fine. Eventually he didn’t cry anymore.

When we first started this process, I only wished that the crying would stop. Then it did, and I kind of (OK — completely) wished he would miss me that much again.

Eventually, after many monologues of self-doubt and insecurity about my choices of returning to work, I realized that this was just part of the process. Just part of parenting. It. just. was. It was normal for him to feel comfortable with my brother-in-law and my in-laws. He was in good hands and loving arms. But still, I wanted them to be my arms.

This parenthood thing throws me for loops at every turn, just when I think I have it figured out — the reset button is hit. Learn all over again.

***

Ben says, “Pick me up Daddy. Pick me up.” He settles in up on his daddy’s hip with a view from top of the world.

I marvel at this sometimes. The way Ben looks when he is up on his daddy’s hip, long three-year-old legs dangling. Ben beams; he is proud. The two of them are symbiotic. Their hearts wrapped around each other, visible from the outside.

Attached at the hip, father and son

As a mother, my heart is a vine and it reaches with invisible twines that wrap around my son’s. I feel this tug at each turn. Ben though, is sitting on top of his daddy’s shoulders, snipping the vine, letting go in some ways. I coil the string, and wrap it safely up for the next time he will need me. He does. He will. I will wait.

In the meantime, I have a little more free time. I should be writing instead of watching, with my green eyes. In fact, I had time after work this past Friday to stop and gaze at the flowers. There is a field of pink, red, and white poppies near my exit for work. I stopped at took some photos. This is something I would not have been able to do had I been in the car with my son, as it was near the highway.

 

Poppy field near exit ramp off highway (I pass this everyday on my way to work)
It’s all about the angle you look at things…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stopping to gaze at the flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly, my eyes are aglow with love and adoration for both my boys. I may envy their magic, but I appreciate the warmth of the fire from the sidelines.

Watching the magic, enjoying the muse

What else can I do? This is a normal stage for children and I appreciate my son has such a loving daddy. And I appreciate that I have such a loving husband. I’m lucky.

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