I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
May 26, 2016
I think it’s safe to say my son has rocked my entire family’s world.
He entered this world ten pounds and two weeks early, punching and kicking and screaming for all he was worth. Nine years later, not much has changed. He’s my last one, the only boy of our four Ferrier kids– and I can’t help but think that God chuckled when he gave him to us to raise.
Bruiser is a ball of constant, unrelenting energy and noise, from the moment he appears at our bedside at the crack of dawn asking whether we think Red Hulk or Iron Man is stronger until he finally quits thrashing at night and loses his mighty battle against sleep. He is a veritable cyclone cloud of constant action, leaving in his wake an endless trail of dirt and LEGOs, cookie crumbs and craft projects, books and Star Wars action figures, rocks and a thousand other bits and pieces he’s picked up along the way.
I may not love cleaning up after him, but I do love my boy fiercely and with all my heart — I admire the busy brain that causes him to spew questions and random bits of information 15 hours a day and I adore his huge heart, which has made him the most devoted to his family of all his siblings. At nine, he still freely gives out hugs and kisses and ‘I love yous’ to all of us, and I will happily take all of those I can get.
But sometimes? If I’m truly honest?
The constant commotion that comes with my son can get… well… annoying.
When I’m trying to get work done and my son is beatboxing his own rendition of ‘Super Mario Brothers’ in my ear, for example, or when I’m quickly pulling dinner together before my husband gets home from work and Bruiser is whining non-stop at my elbow about wanting to play a board game with somebody, or when I’m stuck in traffic on a hot day and he’s rattling off every little last thing he knows about the velociraptor mongoliensis, complete with sound effects… it kills me to say, this, really it does… But sometimes? Sometimes, it’s just. Too. Much.
My first impulse, like most parents, is to emotionally shut down when I can’t take any more. Going on autopilot sometimes seems like the only way to motor through the trials and tribulations of parenting without completely losing it. The problem with this strategy is that it seems to only antagonize my son. In the face of my stoicism, he becomes louder. More grabby. More outrageous. More prone to meltdowns. It was this way when he was three and it’s this way– a nine-year-old version of it, anyway– now.
Realizing this, I tried something radically different several years ago. When he wouldn’t stop clamoring for my attention, even if I was supremely busy, I stopped what I was doing and gave him a hug. Every time I could, I held him in my lap for a few minutes and whispered in his ear that I loved him. I told him he was good and smart and clever and kind, and after just a few minutes, he was ready to wriggle out again and continue on with his day, without the need to make absolutely sure that I was paying attention to every moment of it. Now that he’s too old for my lap, when he starts getting out of hand, I make an effort to stop what I’m doing for a moment, get down on his level, look him in the eye, and listen. Really listen. And often, that’s all it takes to stop the over-the-top behavior.
Who would have guessed it was that simple?
In fact, it turns out that the more often I remember to spend a little extra time with my son each day, the less frenetic he is. I’ve learned now that when he starts acting a little out of control, it’s generally a cue that I need to schedule something special for just the two of us. And when I say ‘schedule,’ I mean it literally– In my case, a vague resolution to ‘spend more time with my son’ generally never really happens. If I come up with concrete ideas, on the other hand, and write them down in my calendar, I tend to follow through with them, even if they’re as simple as playing a board game with him when he gets home from school or reading a chapter of Harry Potter with him before bed.
In my mind, particularly when I’m busy (which is pretty much always), ‘spending more time with my son’ often conjures up visions of hours-long LEGO building sessions or playing catch until my arm feels like it’s going to fall off or reading until my voice becomes hoarse. The truth is, though, that he generally enjoys whatever it is we’re doing together for about 30 minutes– After that, he’s ready to ‘take a break’ and move on to playing with his sister or independently. 30 minutes? I can handle that. I try to keep that in mind now when I’m dreading doing whatever it is that he’s been repeatedly asking to do.
I’m writing about this because I hear moms talk all the time about their ‘wild child’ — the one they love to pieces, but find themselves regularly hiding out from, or checking out from, in an effort to retain their sanity. Watching my son’s attitude change after just a few extra minutes of attention a day, I can’t help but think that this simple ‘fix’ could help a lot of other families out there, too. When I’m vigilant about this and about keeping screen time to an absolute minimum, the positive change in my son in particular is very noticeable. He will always be a bundle of energy– I just have to figure out how to help him channel it, without making myself crazy in the process.
Give it a try and see if it works for you.