Living in “man land” with my husband and two boys, it can be easy to forget that L and B have vulnerabilities just as little girls do. While they might tear around from time to time, strutting proudly and emitting enough bravado to power a plane every once in awhile, one of them will look at me with tears in his eyes or even just a trace of sadness. I’m then totally reminded that they need some positive reinforcement, too. It makes me feel protective inside, and my inner Mama Bear wants to fix it.
But aside from a quick fix (lollipop anyone?) I often wonder how I can give my boys the warm and fuzzies in a way that’ll stay with them for the long term. How can I make them feel good not only in the moment but for years to come? It’s a feeling I’d like to stick to them, like the glue that somehow ends up everywhere in the house after one of their art projects.
I think it starts with simply giving them my time. First and foremost, it shows them that they’re a priority to me – that I’m happy to set aside hours or even a full day to spend with them. It demonstrates my love for them without me ever saying a word. Pretty awesome, right? Plus, the moments that seem small, simple and even downright mundane to adults are often magical to our kids. Taking an hour to grab a slice of pizza at our favorite joint with B may not always seem noteworthy to me, but it’s a really big deal to him. And while going on a bike ride with L through the neighborhood doesn’t strike me as earth-shattering, to L, it’s a rollicking adventure shared with mom that he’ll (hopefully) remember for years.
You’ll notice that I mentioned separate outings with the boys. If possible, I try to spend one-on-one time with each of them because it seems even more significant that way. It sends the message that this is L or B’s special time, dedicated just to him, and nothing is more important to me than sharing this time with him. I love it. And, let’s be honest, it benefits me as well in that it diffuses some of the rowdy physical and mental jostling my boys engage in when they’re competing for my attention! What’s not to like about that?
I also make an effort to care about what L and B care about. Look, no one could ever accuse me of being a jock. Sports? They don’t top my list of favorite things. But I’m there cheering L and B on at most practices and games, along with engaging in spirited recaps afterwards, because they are big into it. And it doesn’t hurt me to toss a ball around with them while secretly daydreaming about those utterly fabulous shoes I spotted online shopping earlier.
This one may sound strange, but it really works with my boys: I ask for their help. Now, this is entirely different than ordering them to clean their room or corralling them when there are still chores to be finished. Asking them for their help is about letting them know that they can contribute and that I value their input. For example, I might request L’s help carrying items to the cart in the grocery store because I appreciate how big and strong he’s getting, as well as his listening skills. Or I may ask B to help me set the table because I admire how neatly(ish) he places the napkins and silverware beside the plates.
I also let my boys know that I need them emotionally sometimes. This lets them play the hero and really puts a major strut in their stuff. I simply request a “kid fix” – a hug and a kiss, if they’re willing (L is getting to the age when he restricts his to family time, as the world might end if his buddies catch wind of it). And I follow up the gesture by vocalizing that it made me feel better. It’s an awesome way to bond and steal a little bit of extra affection from those two rambunctious yet irresistible dynamos I call mine. I love it!
And let’s not forget some good old fashioned fun! Sharing laughs and getting goofy together gets the good vibes brewing because you’re sharing the positive moment with each other. There’s a very science-y reason behind it, but basically, you’re having a blast together. And you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I mean, it’s as simple as stomping in rain puddles, throwing a spontaneous dance party or donning extra cupcake sleeves as hats. Yep, I’ve totally done that last one. Hey, as the kids say, mom can be ‘weird.’
What are some ways you’ve made your kids feel good? And I’d love to get the scoop if you tried any of my ideas on your little ones!