Stuck in the Middle with You

At the beginning of this year I made a promise to myself to take each of my kids on a one on one “date” every month.  A date doesn’t have to be planned or elaborate, just time enough to reconnect and rebalance letting each other know that:  I am here and I love you. Life was happening so fast and it was apparent to me how important it was to make time and space for our individual relationships to develop.  Not only for them, but for me.  I know that soon enough my babies will be grown up and have grown out of my arms. Their schedules and social lives will trump my desire to spend time with them. The urgency is even further compounded now that the two oldest are in school five days a week. The onus is on me to create the alone time.

This past month I was two thirds successful.  My oldest and I have been spending most Thursday evenings together as part of my responsibility to chauffeur him to his art class.  I read or write in the adjacent studio while he draws and paints.  It’s a rare open window into how he interacts with his peers and the feedback he gives the instructor.  (Technically it’s a “drop off” class, but he hasn’t quite embraced that concept yet. And if you insist on being even more technical, neither one of is ready to make that leap. “Babying your First Born”. A topic for another day.)   He always leaves class energized and is a non-stop chatter box during the 15 minute drive home. A week’s worth of his thoughts, questions, and feelings – it is pure gold for my soul. I can tell he enjoys those uninterrupted moments of conversation almost as much as I do.

My little girl and I have Fridays all to ourselves. Our days can be lazy or chock full of adventures depending on our moods. She has my undivided attention while the boys are off getting their learn on.

Then there’s my middle guy.  We have some quiet moments before bed time when he’ll say “Come in my bed you little cutie.” to get me to linger in his room a little longer.  He’ll randomly ask me to read him a story amidst the general aura of chaos that consistently lingers in our home. I cherish these moments, but they do not translate into a substantial amount of time.

On a recent Sunday night my husband and I had some friends over to watch football. We had just cleaned the kitchen and began to relax with adult beverages when I heard him stirring upstairs.  This is pretty much a nightly occurrence and not at all unique to a night when we have company.  He likes to call it “Playing quietly” except that his quiet playing usually involves a metal excavator with lights and noises or some other such machinery.   Instead of battling him every five minutes for the remainder of the game I called him downstairs.

“Downstairs???”  he replied confused.

Yes, honey.  Downstairs.

He came down with the cutest little grin.  He was so tickled to be the only kid with the grown-ups.  He sat with us for almost an hour which was already two hours past his normal bedtime.  Snuggled up next to me in his tattered Hulk pajamas he had his own stream of commentary:  “That was a good throw.”, “What does t-o-y spell”, “He’s out of bounds”, “What’s 20+9?”, “Good tackle.”  For a kid he rarely sits still, he was completely content.  And I sat back and soaked in the moment for all its worth; happy to collect on my overdue “date”.

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