My boy is about to turn 6.
I have an almost 6 year old son.
Over the last few months, I found myself saying more often than I care to admit, certain sentences that I really never thought I would use. Things like:
You are almost 6 years old. I am not going to wipe your bum anymore!
Pick up your wet snowsuit and hang it up. I shouldn’t have to remind an almost 6 years old boy…
You are old enough to [some chore/some activity/some responsibility] now that you are almost 6 years old!
I’m getting sick of hearing myself say this. Imagine how my poor Benjamin must feel…Well, he did feel something. My initial observation of his recent behaviour almost mimicked regression of some sort. Is this even possible for older children? To want to, on some level, be babied again?
My own answer is a resounding YES. Especially because he has a younger sibling (who, in order to confuse my parenting dilemma more, wants to be older than she is, and insists on it in, um, lets say ‘very loud terms’).
I realized I had to focus more on parenting these older young children differently. There had to be a way to make the transition easier on them (and less daunting and agonizing on me).
To my surprise, it wasn’t that hard. It did take more focus, which for me meant parenting the kids individually more often. It also meant that I had to draw the line, or lay down the law, more often, and then refuse to enter into a variety of, er…discussions with them. Just say what you expect, and enforce the expectation, and leave it at that. No explaining, no getting frustrated at resulting whining and crying, no paying attention to negotiations.
Just recently I did this with success. The details escape me right now, but I recall some situation involving chocolate, which they wanted and for whatever reason, I had denied them that day.
Oh there was all kinds of whining, complaining, thrashing around on the floor in protest. Until I went to the basement and they followed me out of simple curiosity. Coming back with my arms full of bins filled with craft items, they forgot their chocolate denial, and immersed themselves into making the most astounding crafts. They didn’t even realize I was sitting nearby munching on chocolate…
But this isn’t about the crafts they made. This is about my relationship with my boy. A boy who has developed into a sports fanatic and who is hockey obsessed, soccer obsessed, and swimming obsessed.
He’s moving more and more toward organized sports, team sports, competitive sports. Pretty soon he’ll choose his friends, or his team over spending time with mom. And that’s ok. I am fine with that. I don’t feel left out. Maintaining an active lifestyle with the kids is part of what I do regularly. I walk with the kids, I ride bikes with them, I’m outside more often than not, exploring, playing with the dog, gardening…
But those activities are no longer enough to maintain, or cultivate a relationship with that boy who has so obviously evolved to a new level. Benjamin, as much as he may wish to be babied and cuddled with, seems to have limits to how often, and how much of that he can tolerate.
And I, as his mom, has to accept that this is what it is. And that this is normal.
My challenge however is to find new ways to connect with my boy. Ways that are separate from his sister tagging along to everything he does. Ways that are special to him and me, alone together.
We have lunch four days a week alone together. But it’s not enough. The highlights of yesterday’s hockey game taunt him after lunch, wanting to watch them on tv and then proceed to imitate the shots on his Lego hockey rink…
Well. I found out that the Royal Ontario Museum in downtown Toronto has free admission on Wednesday afternoons at 3:30 pm for a couple of hours.
Alas, a weekly afternoon-date with my son has been born. My mom already agreed to sit with Sonja (and have a rare bonding moment with the girl child) and Benjamin and I will take the subway downtown, visit the museum, grab a light bite to eat, and return via subway in time to still make it back for a relatively normal bedtime.
Perhaps this will expand his interests beyond sports once again? Introduce him to new things, in a visual, effective way?
I know I’m looking forward to it. It’s been years since I’ve been to the museum. And as most people know, seeing things through the eyes of children is a phenomenal way to stimulate one’s own brain activity…
I am hopeful that he will want to repeat this museum visit after the first time. But I will not push him. Time will tell if this is the right activity for us to enjoy together.