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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thoughts on Little Boys Growing Up

Earlier this week I received an email from Andrew who was at work. The topic of the email is an issue that has been near and dear to my heart recently. I wasn't expecting this email from him and I had no idea that he had taken my disjointed, rather one-sided conversations about the issue to heart as well and had been thinking about what to do to fix the situation. As the (sometimes over-) emotional one in the relationship I often feel like I'm the only one who ever worries about these things. It was nice to hear the same concerns in his voice. Here's the email. Minus a few words meant only for me. :)
So I wanted to write a note about the kiddos. Now I hope I'm conveying this concept correctly but if not (and of course as always) feel free to discuss it with me (and I'm sure you are aware of it and all so let's not have that discussion).

So Lily was born a tiny, wrinkled, pooping machine. And we loved her and we knew she would be capable and awesome. Of course Reuben followed in those steps. And that is the problem. See, he is following Lily and we see that.

In other words, we don't see him as blazing his own trail. Lily gets to sit on the stove/counter while you make pancakes, but Reuben (often because he didn't get there first) is left standing. We don't see Reuben as being as capable as Lily because we see how capable Lily is and are "waiting" for Reuben to reach her level.

So I think that is why he is very frustrated so much. I know that we don't get down on his level and take time with him. I know that we don't teach him sign language (which he loves) any more. We just don't do the many things with Reuben that we did with Lily and I think we need to re-focus and re-evaluate our approach until we treat him like he is the first born also.

Do you know what I mean?
I stood there in my kitchen holding my phone in my hands and crying tears of joy. Yes. Yes I do know what he means. He gets it. He was able to put into words what I've been feeling but didn't quite know how to say. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on but knew something wasn't right. Something was missing.

I often reminisce about the time when Lily was really little. About 6 months old or so. We were living with Andrew's parents for the time being. They have a house in the country and we had two small rooms to ourselves. The door to the outside world was always open and we would often sit out there on a blanket, just the two of us, "talking" to each other, playing with blades of grass and laying on our backs watching the sun filter through the trees. We spent so much time together, just her and I.

I've never had that with Reuben. From the very beginning of his life he's had to share me with an older sister. There have been moments here and there where its just been him and I, but most of the time my attention is divided. He's always been content to play by himself or with his sister. He doesn't require a lot of attention. As a result I've always let him do his own thing and I've watched him grow into a capable little guy. But at the same time I would like to have those moments with him too and I don't know but maybe he feels the same but not knowing any different just goes along with things as usual. I want those moments though. Moments where we can just soak each other up, enjoying the small, insignificant details about each other. I know its not too late.

Another thing is I'm constantly comparing him to Lily, developmentally speaking. Ok, maybe constantly is a strong word, but the mentality of comparison is there. I've tried hard not to do it knowing full well that he will blossom in his own time. Usually it comes down to his speech. Lily was speaking in completely intelligible 4 word sentences at 18 months old. Reuben at 27 months old occasionally speaks in 3 word sentences that are sometimes difficult to decipher. Lily was also using her sign language well past 2 years old whereas Reuben has all but dropped his. I think because of all this I often look at him as less competent than Lily. He has a tough time conveying his needs and wants so I find myself doing things for him or guessing at what he needs (and sometimes getting it wrong) and not giving him the independence he wants.

Ever since reading that email I've been making a conscious effort to let Reuben do things first more often. Also making sure that he gets to try doing things on his own such as putting on his shoes instead of me quickly doing it so that we can get out the door faster. Lily gets herself dressed head to toe every morning but I find myself doing everything for Reuben. So this is going to be a change in mindset from "but he's my baby!" to realizing that he's a competent little boy who wants to do these things for himself. I need to step back and allow him the time and space to work on his own abilities. There probably won't be frustration free moments all around (at least not on my part) but its a step in direction of letting Reuben pave his own way.

I've also been working on fitting in moments during the day to focus on him whether its as simple as a secret smile meant only for him or sitting down, just the two of us, to read some of his favorite books. He may not completely understand what's going on, but I know he loves those special times and they mean so much to me.

Thank you Andrew for speaking "out loud" what was on my heart. I'm glad you understand.


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