Recently, I had one of those moments with Mr Sociable. He wanted my attention. He kept asking me to play with him, kept getting underfoot as I was trying to get things done and complaining when I didn’t “play cars” with him. Eventually he jumped in the middle of the tent that Franky and I were trying to pack away. I yelled at him and he ran away crying.
I knew I had done the wrong thing. I knew I had been impatient and selfish. He wanted my attention. He loves to be around me. He is 4.
I waited a few minutes to cool off and went to find him. He was outside, crying. I knew he would be upset and that I would need to apologise. I knew that we would need to talk about Mummy being busy etc. But, when I asked him what was wrong, I was not expecting him to say, “You don’t like me” - words I never wanted to hear from my child’s lips. How devastating to know that my precious little man honestly believed that I didn’t like him – that I didn’t want to spend time with him because I didn’t want to be around him.
We talked for a long time. I explained that I do love him, that I do like being around him, but that I can’t spend all day playing because sometimes there are other things I need to do (washing, cleaning, cooking). I tried to explain that I do those things to look after our family – not because I don’t want to spend time with him. But, if I am completely honest, there are other times that I have said “no” just because I didn’t feel like playing (because I was tired, or preferred to do something else).
It makes me sad to think about all the times he has felt that I don’t like him – when I have told him that I couldn’t play with him because I needed to do “jobs”. I have been pretty busy since we got home from camping - getting everything unpacked and washed, etc. Mr Sociable is very big on "quality time", but to him "quality" is also about quantity - he feels loved when he receives my undivided attention - and lots of it! Since that horrible conversation, I have been making a concerted effort to stop and listen to him when he is talking to me – to give him my attention – and also to make more time for us to play together.
One thing that really helps both of us is having a visible day plan/routine chart. Mr Sociable likes to know what we are going to be doing for the day and having the cards displayed means that he can see all the times I have already played with him that day – or the times when I will play later in the day. I was really disciplined about using the chart last year, but this year it keeps falling by the wayside. I think I need to make a concerted effort to start planning our days again, ensuring that there is time each day for me to play with Mr Sociable (as well as set times to get jobs done). I’m hoping that this regular “mummy time” will remind him how much I love him and do want to spend time with him.
How do you show your kids that you love them?