Individual attention

The anniversary of our “gotcha day” for our boys is just around the corner, and it’s a great time for reflection on parenting. My first time around, as a mom, with one easy-going daughter, I never had to worry about dividing my time between siblings – all my parenting time was hers.

Now, with two boys, dividing time, and trying to be fair to both of them, is a constant concern. (Not to mention making sure that I still pay some attention to my daughter, even though she’s grown and out on her own.)

J, the little one, demands attention.  He likes to cuddle, he frequently crawls into bed with us, or insists that one of us join him in his bed when he’s worried about monsters.  He loves to be read to, and held, and sit on laps.  If anything, the challenge with him is to encourage him to separate more from us, and being more independent.

S, on the other hand, resists attention.  He loves his independence and self-sufficiency.  He doesn’t want to be hugged or kissed, at least not without explicit permission.  And I respect his independence, and I try to respect his limits and autonomy.  Every now and then he surprises me by asking for a hug, which completely melts my heart, and I gladly give him the warmest, most loving hug and wait for the next time.  My daughter adopted a no-touch rule in her adolescence, so I feel like I can handle these limits just fine.

We read books together, and that’s precious time spent together.  I am particularly loving our reading time now, since he can read, and he and I will alternate pages read out loud to each other.  I’m so impressed with how his verbal skills have developed in the last year – his math skills have been stellar all the way along (except when he decides he doesn’t need to read directions), but reading was a struggle.

About 3 weeks ago, we finished reading The Hobbit, and he was absolutely captivated by the story.  I had loved reading this book as a child, and a favorite aunt of mine had a dog named Bilbo in honor of the title character.  It was so wonderful to share the experience of this book again.  My daughter has read all the Tolkien books, even venturing into the Silmarillion, I think, but I don’t actually remember when she read The Hobbit.  Certainly, I don’t think I read it aloud to her.  I seem to recall my mother reading it to me, although that could be a false recollection.

Anyway, despite the fact that I allowed S to watch the Fellowship of the Ring trilogy without reading the books beforehand, I felt strongly that I wanted him to enjoy the written Hobbit before seeing the movies, and so I made it a condition that we finish the book.  As soon as we finished, he asked that we rent the movie, and I got it for him to watch the following Saturday night.  We watched it together, and then, last week, we went out to the theater together, just the two of us, and saw the second installment together.

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We loved it!  As compared with the first installment, this second movie did not stay as strictly to the book.  Part of the back story that was “added” clearly serves to support the links between The Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring, and I also wondered if it might be partly informed by additional writings like the Silmarillion (I’ll have to check that with my daughter!)

We ended up talking about the movie all the way home, remembering parts from the book that they chose not to include, and what they put in that wasn’t in the book.  We talked about parts we both liked, and parts we like less.  We agreed that J wouldn’t like it at all because it would be too scary for him.  And, as we were having such a great time, I remembered that when we first brought the boys home, we had a dog, Reaghan:

DSC00001And, I reminded S of how nice it used to be when I would take Reaghan out for a walk, and S would join me.  He would hold my hand, and we talked (when he had learned enough English), and it was a very special time together.

Reaghan died of old age about 18 months ago, and we’ve been a dog-free home for that time.  It’s been nice not to have to walk a dog twice a day, but we’re starting to talk about getting a replacement.  The boys are eager for a new dog (even thought J is terrified of every dog we know), and although the neediness of dogs sometimes gets to me, I like the prod to go out for a walk every day.  So, we’ll see…

And I look forward to more special times with my independent and autonomous older son…

 

Happier-at-Home-by-Gretchin-RubinThis post was inspired by Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin where she runs a nine month experiment to create happier surroundings.  Her November chapter details her strategies to make her parenting happier, and she describes her Wednesday adventures with her older daughter.  It struck a chord with me.

Join From Left to Write on January 6 we discuss Happier at Home. You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

7 thoughts on “Individual attention

  1. martha84 says:

    I am always amazed at how unique siblings can be. Still, in your son's independence you clearly still know how to make your time valuable for the both of you. Sounds like you know what you're doing 🙂

    1. jkuruppu says:

      thanks for the vote of confidence – I think so many good parenting ideas come about accidentally, and by trial and error. We just feel our way in the dark most times, I think.

  2. ThienKimL says:

    Sounds like you have an amazing time with the boys. I'm waiting for my daughter to continue reading Harry Potter (she got scared) so we can see the movie together.

    1. jkuruppu says:

      We read the first HP book together, and then he "read" the second and maybe the third on his own, but his reading wasn't up to the level it is now. I would love him to tackle them again, now that he really can read well, and comprehend what he's reading. We have watched the first movie, and maybe the second. I would love to watch them all with him.

  3. Nancy says:

    I love the excitement and joy of sharing a childhood love with our own children. I wasn't sure where you were going with this blog post because I forgot about that chapter! I'll have to re-read it and come up with some adventures of my own to share with my kids.

    1. jkuruppu says:

      Since my first child was (and, in many ways, will always be) an only child, I didn't have the issue of dedicating special time to one child or another. It's just an additional dimension to parenting siblings that I hadn't thought about. I so treasured my time with my mother when she read to me, and my sister had a very different relationship with our mom – closer than mine was, for a variety of reasons. But, in those days, parents didn't worry about parenting quite as much as we do now.

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