This summer has been full of growth for both of my babies. Harrison learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels at the very beginning of the season. He also has mastered swimming without swimmies, and even Ella is independent in the water. I can allow them to go outside and play and not have to hover over their every move like I did last year. I really thought that I’d be so happy when they needed me less, but to be honest, it makes me hug them tighter and hold them longer when they do end up in my arms.
As with all major growth spurts, the emotions are running wild within my children. Ella has always been quite dramatic and it doesn’t much shock us when she throws an epic temper tantrum or squeals with delight about something that excites her. But Harrison is usually a little more predictable and even-keeled. Today, however, was one of those days where that was not the case.
Today’s forecast was perfect to be near the water, so we set out to spend our entire day at a local swimming pool. Harrison could not be satisfied with any situation. If he was in the pool alone, he wanted us in there. If he had his swimmies on, he wanted them off. If it was snack time, he wanted to be in the water. This carried on all afternoon. At one point, he approached Justin, whining about some indiscretion he wanted amended, and knocked over Justin’s drink. We were annoyed; the drink was just purchased, and Harrison didn’t even seem to care that he had done it. Several minutes later, Harrison was swimming independently when he got spooked and started to go under. Luckily Justin was close by and literally saved the kid from drowning. After Harrison was safely on the ledge of the pool, he proceeded to yell and scream at Justin for saving him. Following this incident, Harrison decided to join Justin and Ella in the hot tub where he, once again, knocked over Justin’s drink. Then he got in the water and started hitting Ella for literally no reason. It was at this point that we decided it was time to save the peaceful day for the rest of the pool patrons and head home. Harrison was banished to his room (we knew he would fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion, and within minutes, he was out cold).
Once he woke up, I had a quiet little talk with him about how he needs to learn to monitor his feelings, and if he starts to feel like he’s going to be angry he needed to use his words to tell me that so we could talk through the situation. Everything was fine for an hour or so until after dinner when Harrison was angry that he got to watch a whole episode of television that he didn’t really want to watch (yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either). Again the screaming ensued. The child refused to brush his teeth and getting him to get into bed was another story all together. By the time I got done tidying up, Harrison was still whimpering in his bed. This, at least, was a step up from the howling that was previously being used to express his feelings. I lay down beside him and wrapped him up in my arms and just held him.
We didn’t talk about his inappropriate behavior. We didn’t talk about what to do next time. I wasn’t exactly sure if I should be giving him so much affection after all of his antics, but then I remembered how sometimes we all run on empty and we need someone to fill up our metaphorical cups. I had a strange feeling that Harrison was running low on whatever he needs to be his happy sweet self, and so I just tried to fill him up with my love. Although it seemed counterproductive, giving that kid some extra affection was exactly what he needed to recenter himself. We stayed there for several minutes, and eventually he reached for my hand and held it in his own. I noticed that his hands aren’t quite as small as they used to be, and I began to reminisce about all of the years between this one and the year he was born. I thought about all of the times when things were tough and I didn’t think I was ever going to get this parenting thing down. Six years in, I am no expert. But I did learn something really important today. Sometimes, when they’re the hardest to love, you have to love them the hardest.
After a while I looked down and saw his little smile, several teeth gone to the tooth fairy by now. He giggled when he looked up at me and said, “It feels nice to snuggle with you, Mommy.”
For now, I know he is still my little boy. I know there’s going to be so many more days where he’s hard to love. Six years has taught me how to love stronger and harder, although that makes the ache of my babies growing up all the more intense.