Life gets crazy with little ones, but there is a simple thing you can do to connect with your child and unlock their heart.
My 3-year-old ran into his dark room and threw himself onto the floor.
I closed the door behind us and put his t-shirt, pull-up, and undies on the ground beside me. Then he started kicking his feet and screaming, “No, no, noooooo.”
I knew he was overtired. I knew he was wound up from the late evening and birthday cake.
And I knew he hadn’t had a lot of time with me lately.
Even when you try hard to spend one-on-one time with your children, the special times don’t come around every day. As the 3rd child of 5, he often gets caught in the middle. He’s not as big as the older kids nor is he a baby or little toddler.
His older siblings play more complex imaginative games and his younger brothers don’t really let him boss them. So, you see, he tries to find other ways to get our attention.
By screaming, tattling, and having some type of ache or pain.
So this evening, especially this evening, I knew I could not rush bedtime.
I didn’t hurry up…
As I sat on the carpet that has more bodily fluid stains than can be counted, he slowly turned around and lay his head on my lap. He is a rough and tumble boy so this is a big deal for him. A true sign of affection.
I rubbed his head, patted his belly, and started singing a song for him. I sang about how much I loved him, how much God loved him, and how great it was to have a boy with an infectious laugh.
I sang about his favorite food, his favorite games, and his kind-heart and fun spirit. I sang about all the things that make him unique.
It was not in perfect tune, but he listened to every word.
Then he said what had been on his heart…
After the song he sat up, looked at me, and laid his head against my chest and said, “Mommy…” in a sad voice.
Inside I knew whatever he was going to say was important. It was that kind of moment.
“Mommy, why did you give brother my gummies at the Easter egg hunt?”
I sat for a moment and thought… then I remembered.
At the Easter egg hunt both boys found an egg with candy, but his brother’s egg had peanut butter in it. His brother is allergic to peanut butter. So I swapped the treats in their eggs. But the thing was, he didn’t see it like that… he just thought I gave his little brother his prize treat.
In that moment, he hadn’t understood. He just thought I favored his brother.
So I gave him vocabulary for his feelings…
“Oh, baby,” I said, “You were so sad I took your candy and gave it to your brother. You wanted that candy!”
“Yes, I weally was,” he stated.
“I am so sorry for taking your gummies and giving them away. That made you feel bad. Do you know why I did it? When we opened his egg, it had peanut butter in it, so I changed your egg and his. But you know what? Next time I won’t do that. Next time we can think of something to do together.”
What he said next proved he did understand. “Mommy, next time at the egg hunt, if he has peanut butter in his, I give him a other egg.”
I looked him square in the eyes, told him that was a great idea, and we shared a nice cuddle.
The reason he shared…
The fact is, that Easter egg hunt was over a month ago. To a toddler or early preschooler, that’s a lifetime. He had been holding onto this feeling for weeks.
The idea that maybe, just maybe, mommy preferred his brother over him.
It isn’t that it was necessarily wrong to trade the boys’ eggs. But it was the principle of the matter. Do I always take the time to explain situations to my children? Do I give them the chance to make decisions on their own?
I felt humbled he asked me this question because I knew it was close to his heart. I also knew the only reason he felt safe to talk to me about this was because I had chosen to do something rare for me.
I had ignored everything else around me and focused on him.
I let his siblings run around outside his room. I did not divide my attention between hoarding my offspring, cleaning house, and pretending to focus on him. Instead, I just focused on him.
I did something that required my full attention: I sang. I proved to him that I know him. I see him. I love him.
Only then, after I’d gotten to his heart by paying full attention did he feel safe to be vulnerable with me.
After our talk…
He accepted my apology and I could tell his mood had lifted. The cloud of doubt in his heart?
I hope it was uprooted.
He jumped into bed, hugged his stuffed lion that’s bigger than his entire body and asked me to cover his tippy toes with the blankie.
I walked out of his room both happy and sad. Sad it had taken over a month for him to share his insecurities and doubts. But mostly happy. Happy he’d shared them at all.
Happy I’d ignored everything else going on around me and focused on him. And that by doing so, he felt truly loved.
Love is not grand gestures or big opportunities.
Love is not complicated or complex.
Love is as simple as paying attention.
- A Rock Solid Toddler Schedule
- A Foolproof Daily Schedule For Toddlers
- The Smart Bedtime Routine Your Toddler Won’t Fight
- A 3 Year Old Sleep Schedule That Minimizes Meltdowns