Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Wooing

In the mornings I slip out of our darkened bedroom and into the kitchen. I start the water boiling for our french press coffee and pack the big kids' school lunches. I fill the dog and cat bowls, and putter about as the older members of our family get ready for their days.

When they leave for school and work I have a few precious minutes to sit with the animals. I stroke their fur and think about what I will do that day to make YH love me--just a little bit.

I have never worked so hard to win another person's love. Ever.

Just as with romantic love, I take care in my appearance. Are my clothes soft enough for him to press his cheek against if he needs comforting? I slather myself with scented lotion--the same kind we put on YH's dry skin--so that he will associate my smell with the pre-bedtime massage that he likes so much. I make delicious meals for him--paying attention to his ever changing food preferences and making sure to select his favorite utensils.

He is often waiting for me when I go to collect him from his warm bed each day. He sits upright in his bed, kicking his feet. I open the french doors to his "room" and he greets me with an enthusiastic "Good morning Mama!"

Most days he lets me crawl into bed next to him for a cuddle. We lay there with our foreheads pressed together and make lists of the people we will see that day.

"Mom! Owen, mom? Oz, mom? Mom! Baba. Nana. Mom! Mom! Kye. Jacob?"

That he allows us these moments of closeness is testament to the fact that the wooing is working. In our first few months together he was all business. And all busy-ness. Wake-up time meant leap out of bed and dive right into play time. He *liked* me ok then, but mostly I was a means to his ends. He wanted yogurt, I was the yogurt lady. His diaper needed changing, I was the diaper lady.

 Hugs and physical affection were on his terms. Yes--I will sit on your lap lady, but only facing outward. I will hold my little body stiff when you draw me in close for a hug. I will put my forearm against your chest, so that we aren't really hugging. I will let you carry me when I am tired but I will lean my torso away from you as your carry me on your hip. I will grasp your sweater in my tight fist instead of wrapping my arms around you. I will not allow you to hold me in a prone cradle position. No. I will not willingly make eye contact as you rock me.

We went slowly with discipline, recognizing that most of his tantrums were due to the tremendous upheaval in his wee life. His burgeoning language skills have cut down on many of the angry and frustrated outbursts. Instead of time-outs we do "time-ins"--a small window of time where YH can sit on a step with me by his side and work on calming his body/mind to the point where we can talk about the unwanted behavior/his frustrations.

I always end the time-in with a hug and an "I love you".

Last week something amazing happened.
YH started to lose it. He couldn't make a particular toy car do what he wanted it to do. He started banging it against the table and making louder and louder noises. His face was turning red and his brow was furrowed. I felt a major meltdown on the horizon and moved closer to him to help get him through it.

But before I could say anything he dropped the car and turned to me with a teary face.
"Mom, hug. Hug please mom?"

I pulled him in close to me and he melted against me. His head lolled heavily against my shoulder and our breaths fell in sync. I rubbed circles on his back and buried my nose in his spiky cowlick.

"Mom? Hey mom. Mom, Sunshine?"

He asked me to sing "You are my Sunshine" to him. I sing this to him before bed each night, changing the words each time to reflect something that I love about him.

"You are my sunshine, my wonderful sunshine. I love you so much, my little YH-ie. I love your cute nose, I love your stinky toes. You are so funny, and so so smart. I love your big heart, I love your dancing. YH-ie, I'm so glad I get to be your mama today and forever."

And so on. He never responds when I do this at bedtime; I had no idea if he listened to it at all or if he was patiently waiting for me to finish and leave his room.

But this time, in his moment of distress, he *asked* for his special song. He *asked* for me to hold him to help him feel better.

When he was ready to go back to playing I smoothed the hair off his face and said "I love you little man."

And he looked me right in the eye and said "I love you Mama."

The wooing is working, I think.