It’s a daily occurrence. I’m rushing around after my boys, cooking food, changing diapers, getting ready to head outside, all those things that, strung together, make up our day. Then I hear it. Jack starts to yelp or crash into the couch or follow me around blowing raspberries at me. It pushes my buttons.
I start with taking a deep breath, “Ok, Abby, don’t yell.” (Sometimes I don’t, sometimes I do!) Then I gently explain that these various things are not safe, hurting my ears, etc. “Please keep your spit in your mouth.” Often Jack will begin to taunt Exley. Squeezing his cheeks, poking his belly, chasing him until he screams. My first impulse is to yell or try to explain to Jack that this stuff makes up want to go away from him.
But I know what is really going on.
I’d rather just rush through the day and get on with what we are doing than accept what is really happening.
I know in my mama heart that Jack is feeling disconnected from me when he acts like this. It feels like a burden to have to stop what we are doing and reconnect. Before becoming a mom I never had to think about anyone else. I never had to consider the emotional needs of someone who couldn’t explain their feelings to me. I never had to read between the lines. There is plenty of nuance in adult relationships too, but I am of the mindset when it comes to adults that you need to bring things to me. I cannot read your mind and I will not spend a ton of emotional energy trying to figure you out.
With kids it’s different. They can’t be given this responsibility. They do not have the skills. All we can really rely on is what their behavior is telling us. We have to read into it, we have to spend that time and energy figuring them out. In my experience the need usually comes down to connection.
We spent this past winter visiting a neighbor restaurant about once a week. It is very family friendly. They have a separate kids’ section, play movies and the kids can run around. The adults sit and talk, the kids watch the movie and run around. Toward the end of the winter Jack started to act unusual when we went there. One evening he was climbing around, pushing the light fixtures and doing other things that he generally doesn’t do. It dawned on me that he feels disconnected from me there. The basic set up is to have kids separate from parents. Jack is not a fan of this!
When these things happen and my buttons are pushed I try to remember that the most effective way to get us through it is to see it as a sign that I need to take a break. I scoop Jack up and say, “Do you need mama? I’m here sweet baby. Let’s have some Jack and mama time.” 99% of the time he calms down. He usually asks to nurse. Breastfeeding is a major source of security for Jack, I am so grateful to have that tool. Breastfeeding is by no means the only way to connect with your child, it’s just a great tool in the toolbox if you have it.
It only takes a couple of minutes. After I truly get on his level and put my emotional energy into him, he is off and running again. This time much more pleasant! Then need for connection is human and basic. We all need this. Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect. I get annoyed, I yell, I just want to run away from it all sometimes. But trying to get around it never, never, never works. The only way we ever move past these situations is when we connect.