I know that I’m lucky to be able to be at home with my son. Working from home allows me to see him most of the day every day. While this is so very rewarding, it is always really challenging in a month like I just had. I was working two different jobs–something like fifty hours a week. I haven’t had a day off from work in over a month now. This has been hard on all of us. BG has been acting out because even though I’m home, I’m unavailable. Sometimes I think it’s harder for kids when a parent is right there but inaccessible. This has frustrated him to no end. He has been lashing out, testing me, and we have generally had some really challenging days of late.
But today made up for all of that. I finally had a day to just be with my son. My wife asked me to run a couple of errands for her, and because she had the car, it meant strapping the boy into his stroller and getting out into the fresh air and sunlight. It has been so long since I’ve been able to do this with BG because all of our mornings have been wrapped up in trying to stay on top of laundry and dishes and cooking. So I decided we’d have an outting. I packed some snacks. The boy easily got dressed (unheard of), and even helped lead the way in getting us out of the house in a timely fashion (the antithesis of his usual dawdling, distracted self). Before I knew it, we were walking through our neighborhood, BG snacking on an apple, and in the very moment I was beginning to really take in my surroundings, my son said, “It’s nice to go for a walk.”
I agreed heartily.
Shortly after, he suggested we walk to the park. I didn’t miss a beat, and we were on our way to a nearby park. All he wanted to do was swing and swing and swing. He smiled, he beamed, he wiggled and wiggled, he went hands-free, he asked me to take pictures and then to look at them. I have not taken my son to a park in over a month, I’m ashamed to say. I’ve missed this. Again, he told me when he was ready to go, climbed into the stroller, and we headed off to the bank, the grocery store, the drugstore. We were having such a wonderfully harmonious morning that I offered to get him a treat. All he wanted was cheese. He was thrilled to have his cheese. In the drugstore, he was thrilled to play with a car and then put it back in its place. And then he was happy to go home.
As we rounded the corner to our street, he said, “That was a nice walk, Mommy.”
Again, I agreed.
And then getting home, he was so helpful. I should say here that he is always helpful. Our son loves to help, but he was helpful without any hitches. He carried in the few groceries and put them in the fridge. He came out and helped me water flowers. He kindly sprayed me with the hose and then encouraged me to change my skirt. And later, when we came back in, he ran to me in the kitchen, hugged my legs, and looked up at me beaming. He was so happy to have me there, present, available. I could have wept. It was perfect.
These moments have been beautiful, but there is more to this. BG has long been verbal, but we have really been working on communicating about emotions, about telling us what he needs or what is frustrating/saddening/angering him, especially because we have been enduring a lot of screaming from him lately. When he awoke from a nap much too early, and I was once again working, he fell apart with his mama. He hit her and cried and cried in her arms as she tried to calm him. But he wanted me. In the midst of this devastating crying, he stopped, and choked out, “Please, may I…” Neither J nor I knew what he said after this, only that he was finding words even in the middle of these really hard emotions to try to connect with us, to let us know he needed me. I came to him, and then he apologized to his mama. He collapsed into my arms. He was afraid he’d lost me to endless work again, and this was too much on the heels of such a special morning. My wife and I were so proud of him, despite the pain of this moment, because he was communicating, he was letting us know just how urgent this was for him.
And this was true much of the day. Instead of meltdowns, we talked about his feelings. Sure there were moments of screaming or utter frustration, but he resolved them more easily as we put names to his feelings, acknowledged why he was upset. We moved through the day in a way that was so much easier than our usual days. While I know full well that tomorrow could be fraught with tantrums and screaming, I can see today what the future may hold if we pay attention to what works. And today, what worked was sunlight, fresh air, undivided attention, good words for hard feelings, and a big heaping dose of compassion and patience.