Saturday, August 2, 2014

Some Things About My Child

I have learned some things about my child.  Some necessary and sanity saving things.  Some things that from the outside looking in, might seem like I have no control over my child and there was a time when I would have agreed completely.  Thankfully for myself and for Ben, my understanding has changed.

Take today for example.  Today we were at Charlie's Ice Cream with friends.  It was a large group and there were only a few others who came in after we had settled down with our ice cream so we pretty much had the joint to ourselves.  There was music on the jukebox and the children were playing.  Ben was dancing to the tunes and running around playfully.  (Now I say playfully because I understand that to him, that's what it is.)  He was laughing and occasionally squealing with delight as other children played with him.  He squeals with delight if anyone, adult or child, plays with him.

After several rounds and the recapturing of shoes, David and I tried to contain the bundle of energy that is our son and head home.  He went down for a nap almost immediately.  There was one more round of chasing to be done before the diaper could be changed and he was ready for a nap.

As I sat in Charlies wondering at the energy of my son, I also marveled at how much I have come to accept him.  Not to be confused with "giving up" on him.  But really accepting who he is.  Before he was part of our lives I would never have even imagined myself letting a child run around a restaurant.  That's just not what you let your kids do.  They need to sit quietly and respectfully, not interrupting anyone else.  In fact I would have passed judgement on those who did.

But now?  Now I have Ben.  He is not anything special, he just has more energy in his little toe than I have in my whole body some times.  So here are the things that I have learned and come to love about my child.

1.  He needs to be social. He thrives off of it.  He is friendly and open and makes friends easily wherever he goes, no matter the age.  1-100 he's there to say hello and make a friend. When I keep him in the house too long (not in hours but in days) he starts to wither.  If we go more than 2 days without contact with other people, he starts to get ornery and whiny.  I've even thought he must be sick or something physical was bothering him, but the second he is in contact with someone else he's a changed person, especially if there is someone new to play with.  And I really mean the second.  He will practically drag friends away from their parents to go play with him.

2.  He needs to keep things light and playful.  He picks up quickly on whether I'm upset or even just too serious.  He tries to do things to put a smile on my face and lighten the mood around him.  This is especially apparent when he is in trouble for doing something wrong.  He quickly tries to divert attention to something that usually makes me laugh or smile. I used to think that he was trying to get out of being disciplined but have since learned that it's not the discipline but the "heaviness" of it all.  He wants me to be happy.  If I come down too harsh on him during these times I will not be able to reach him to help him understand what he has done wrong because he will be too busy trying to get me to smile again.  When I back off a little and take him to task gently, he's more likely to listen and make changes to his behavior.

3.  He needs to move.  Not likes or prefers, but actually needs to move.  It is who he is.  I simply cannot expect him to sit completely still during church.  I can expect him to be quiet during church. He can do reverent activities, but to just sit still?  Impossible.  It's like he has a quota of energy that needs to be expended every day.  He needs to take so many running steps, jump so many times, bounce and cavort around the room and crash into things with great vocal gusto.  He needs to move and shake and play and be happy and creative.

All of these things that I love about my child have been a challenge for me.  I do not need to move as much as he does.  Not even 10th of what he does.  I do not like to be out of my house all that much and I like to think about things seriously.  I'm not always happy, not that I'm necessarily sad but I'm just more serious than he is.  I'm not always up to being social and oftentimes would prefer to sit down and watch a movie or read a book.  Which means that sometimes Ben exhausts me.

What are my choices though?  Do I squash Ben's energy, his happy personality, the excitement and joy that he gets out of life?  Some of the very things that are essentially him?  I could have forced Ben to sit still at Charlie's.  He would have cried.  He would have fought me.  He wouldn't have been able to play with the other kids.  We as parents wouldn't have been able to talk to anyone about anything because we would have had to hold him in the vice-grip of death in order for him to sit still.  We would have ended up leaving almost immediately upon arrival and we would have all had a miserable time.

I didn't want that.  I wanted to enjoy my time.  So instead I let him run.  I let him brings a smile to people's face even as they thought perhaps someone should "sit that kid down".  But I honestly don't think anyone was thinking that.  I watched as he greeted people and most everyone answered with a genuine smile and even laughter.  I kept one eye on the people I was with and one eye on him.  When he sat down at someone else's table and started making the little girls laugh, I went and got him so they could enjoy their ice cream together.  When he started for the door to go outside and visit with another family, I wouldn't let him.  He needed to stay safe where I could see him.  He didn't like it, but he did obey.  He could play with the kids that were a part of our group.  When he starting playing in the drinking fountain I stopped him.  He has boundaries, they just don't look like what even I thought they would.

More important than me enjoying my time though, is the responsibility that I have as a parent to my child.  I do not want him growing up thinking that the very things that make him who he is, are wrong or bad or unacceptable.  I want him to always be that happy, social, fun-loving child.  The one who brightens a room.  There will be plenty of people and opportunities as he grows older that will make him question his worth.  He will second guess the things that are so natural to him.  I do not want that questioning to start with me.  I want to be his biggest cheerleader, honoring his unique perspective and abilities and who he really is.  I want him to be able to learn to work with his energy and meet his potential.  No reservations.

Wish us both luck!

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