I believe in exposing my children to the arts. Since they were little, I’ve taken them to Broadway shows, ballets, symphonies, plays, concerts. It so happens that to the delight (dismay) of my ex-husband, many of these concerts are hard rock/metal concerts. Lots of shoving, spilled beer, all sorts of smoking, lots of profanity, and loud, thumping drums and bass. You know, things that a good parent exposes her children to.
My kids get a little irritated at shows. There are moments of pure grumpiness and dislike. After all, no one likes beer spilled on them. But they say they have a great time at the end of each concert, and they’re always asking what show they can attend next.
I wonder why. Some moments they look miserable or bored. My friend points out they like to go to shows with me because they know it makes me happy. He’s right. They want to connect with me.
La Chica loves to run races with me. You’ll remember she screams and cries and fights me the entire race, every single race. But when it’s over, she declares how wonderful it was, and she wants to run more with me. Because she knows running feeds my soul and she wants to connect with me.
Recently, she asked me to do yoga with her. Yoga does not feed my soul. I get grumpy and irritated and impatient with yoga. Which is pretty much the antithesis of what yoga’s about. I try to stay away from things I’m not successful at, but she really wanted to do it. So we’re doing yoga together because it makes her happy, and I want to connect with her.
But the Boy, I’m losing him. He started middle school this year. His hormones have kicked in full gear. He’s moody and sullen and disagreeable. He’s also growing into his own person. As he individuates, I’m losing my connections with him.
He’s bridged from cub scouts to boy scouts. I’m all about fostering independence, so I am glad for these opportunities for him to learn and fail and practice on his own. I’m sad also though, as my involvement in scouts is very different, very detached and far removed. I’m no longer part of making those memories. I’m no longer witnessing many of these memories. I’m being told about them, after the fact.
As he’s gotten older, I’m not volunteering in school anymore. I’m not helping him bridle his horses anymore. I’m not invited into his imaginative play with his dragons and wizards and Lego minifigures and Pokemon figures anymore. He can’t fit on my lap as he reads anymore.
We’ve lost our points of connection as he gains independence. I still get surprise bear hugs and kisses, snuggles, jokes. But they’re few and far between. I’m losing him, and I think he feels it too. I understand the developmental moodiness and attitude of puberty and tweenhood. But I think he’s also sensing the loss of connection. There’s a crankiness and edge to him lately. Our interactions are largely transactional now. I take him where he needs to go, he does his chores, he tells me what homework he has. I kiss him good-bye in the morning and good-night in the evening.
We both want more in between those kisses. We’re both kind of cranky with each other. Because he’s not who he used to be. And we haven’t figured out how I can honor that and still connect with him.
So I’ve decided we’re going to figure this out with Special Dates. When the kids were a little younger, I used to drop one off at an activity, and spend Special Date time with the other sibling. Instead of reading or running errands during this time, I would let him/her choose what we’d do on our Special Date. We’ve had picnics, played hangman, gorged on donuts and ice cream, painted pottery, talked, snuggled, played board games, gone shopping. It didn’t matter what we did. What mattered was that each child knew I was fully present with him or her during an activity of his/her choosing.
It is this validation and being present that made these Dates special. It is in these moments we connected. It is in these connections that each child knew he or she mattered, and that knowledge fills the soul. I asked the Boy if he’d like to do this again. He smiled and his eyes lit up. Yes, yes he would. That Boy would do anything for a donut. And I’ll do anything for a connection.