It’s been a difficult month. As you may know, we are in the process of moving to a bigger house. (I’ll devote a post to our move soon!) During this time of negotiating, financing, packing, showing our house, etc., tensions have been running high. But while the grownups have been running around stressed out, the boys have been living carefree.
Stephen and Adrian spend their summer days playing with friends, riding bikes, swimming in our little plastic pool, and eating watermelon, mostly unsupervised. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful way for little boys to pass the summer. Their bruises, scrapes, and tans colorfully illustrate their free-range outdoor life.
However, all this freedom has also made them a bit too wild for the indoors. When they do come inside, the yelling and swordplay continue unabated. Our grownup ears, buzzing with talk of loans, contracts, down payments, and interest rates, have little tolerance for the Lost Boys’ endless antics. So there has been more fussing and yelling than usual going on.
Yesterday, I took my sister Beth to the airport after a long weekend visit, then went to the store. When I returned, Eric told me that Stephen (already under fire for various morning misdemeanors) had been playing Red Samurai Power Ranger in the living room, and while leaping around practicing his “moves,” accidentally slashed Will (do you see why we need a bigger house?). Eric duly gave him a verbal lashing and sent him to his room. After putting away the groceries, I went to see what an unusually quiet Stephen was doing.
I found Stephen lying on the floor, his feet propped up on the wall, crying.
“Hey, Stephen, what’s up?” I asked.
“I feel unloved,” he cried.
His words struck me like a blow. The world went into slow-mode. My heart dropped into my toes. I wanted to run. I wanted to cry. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to crawl under my covers and melt away. My son said the worst thing he’d ever said to me, worse than the “I hate you’s” of the terrible two tantrums, worse than when he told me I “ruined his life” (for giving him the wrong color towel, also during his terrible two phase).
As a parent, you know you’ll mess up. You just hope your mistakes won’t screw up your kid for the rest of his life, or at least require minimal counseling sessions to fix. “Unloved” seems beyond both of those categories. Unloved is a hole in my son’s heart.
“Stephen!” I said, my eyes also filling with tears, “We love you, we love you, we love you! We love you so much! I’m sorry we’ve been frustrated and stressed out lately, I’m so sorry you feel that way! We love you! Why do you feel unloved?”
“I don’t know,” he sniffed. “That’s just how I feel.”
He laid his head on my lap and we snuggled. “I’m so sorry you feel that way. No matter what, we’ll always love you.”
“I know,” he sighed.
Eric came in and also reassured him that we love him, and even when we get frustrated with his behavior, we always love him. And we’ll try to be more patient and less fussy. Stephen and I moved into my bedroom to get some privacy from the invading little brothers. We snuggled in my bed and talked a little more. Stephen decided to go watch TV downstairs, and I told him I was going to take a nap.
Before he left, he asked, “Are you sad, Mom?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m glad you told me about your feelings. But it makes me very, very sad that you feel that way.”
He smiled. “It’s ok, Mom! Don’t be sad!”
And then he ran downstairs.
So I hope it is ok. He seemed to feel better after we talked. Eric and I had already discussed that we need to do better on our love and logic skills: more consequences and less fussing/yelling! Hopefully that will help.
But Stephen, if you ever read this blog about your mom and your life, this is for you:
I am sorry there was ever a moment in your childhood that you felt unloved. I wish we were perfect parents and could love you perfectly at all times. But sometimes we feel unloved by the people who love us most. Unfortunately, Daddy and I get tired and stressed and grouchy, especially since you’ve had the misfortune to become the biggest big brother to baby twins. I know we’ve asked a lot of you the last year, and you’ve had a lot of big brother responsibilities. I am very proud of how you have handled it; how you take care of your little brothers; how you even cheer me up when I’m sad. I have always been impressed by your thoughtfulness and insights; you have wisdom beyond your almost-7 years. I hope that at times when you don’t FEEL loved in your heart, you will at least KNOW you are loved with your head, and we’ll do our best to make you feel the truth: the truth that you are loved intensely by many people. I love you, and I will always love you.