My husband is gone for work this week and Henry is missing him like crazy. This is the kid who counts down the minutes until Graham gets home on the weekdays, and wants to spend every hour with him on weekends. We’ve actually had to monitor the time between them to make sure our daughters are getting one-on-one moments with Dad too. For a kid who lives his life out loud, it is pretty tough for Henry to control his disappointment when Graham is gone. I am certainly still the nurturer for my son, but as he grows up, my role in his life is changing. Thankfully, some of that transition is within my power to control: I can kick the soccer ball with him; we can build Legos together; I can sit near him while he plays his favorite weekend video game. This week, while Graham is gone, I’ve been thinking more about the lessons I can teach my son while he is still listening.
Love Who You Were Created to Be
Henry has been diagnosed with ADHD and that comes with a whole set of joys and challenges. As a mom who likes order, it is easy to be frustrated with his loud morning voice or the after-school frenetic energy. My husband and I talk a lot about what it means to be Henry, and how we can offer acceptance for his Henry-isms, endearing and otherwise. As his mom, I can convey my love in ways that speak directly to him: patience with his big feelings, holding him and massaging his back when he needs help to calm down, resisting the urge to shush him when he’s happy or excited. And I can tell him that he is just how he was created to be, and I am proud to be his mom.
There Is No Better Than
My husband grew up in a house of sisters, and can empathize with our son who is now surrounded with them, too. (Come puberty, I think Henry and Graham are going to pitch a permanent tent in the backyard while I go buy all the sanitary products in bulk at Costco.) One thing I’ve overheard my kids saying coming home from school recently is “Girls Rule” or “Boys are Best”. As their mom, I work to dispel myths on both sides. I love a good boss babe story as much as any other gal, but I’m not going to throw men under to bus to raise up a woman. Similarly—and with deeper etching and scarring in our culture—men are not, in fact, superior to women. Pushing against male supremacy with my son is held in small conversations over time, but it isn’t all talk. It’s about neutralizing some roles in our house in order to lean against gender stereotypes: Graham cooks, cleans, and folds laundry; I can unclog a bathroom faucet and add oil to the car. It’s also about recognizing our kids’ natural gifts and not labeling toys, movies or activities for boys or for girls. (As a mother of boy/girl twins, I can talk to you all day about nature vs. nurture, what they naturally gravitated toward when being exposed to the same toys at the same developmental stage, but I’ll save that for another day.)
Encourage Consistent Communication
I have a son who is becoming quieter and quieter about the details of his day, but I still want to hear the takeaways. That starts with inquiry. We ask these questions often of our children at the dinner table:
What was your favorite part of the day?
Tell me a time you were brave today.
How did you help someone today?
Where do you feel you failed today?
Waiting for the answer and really listening is the key here. When I hear Henry’s heart on something that happened at school, I can follow up later with a one-on-one conversation away from his siblings. If Graham and I can teach our son good communication skills when he is still young and impressionable, imagine what kind of leader he could be one day.