When I woke up this morning, this thought crashed over me like a wave: Why am I swimming upstream?
We’ve been struggling lately with our weekends. Time with The Who has felt trying, exhausting, frustrating, irritating, and not fun. Not all the time, of course. But spending a lot of concentrated time and thinking about spending a lot of time has not felt good. Memorial Day weekend was especially rough and after the first two full days, we were all edgy. There are a thousand different reasons all playing into it, but the end result was that, lately, I have been dreading finding things with which to fill our time and grasping desperately for stolen moments on my own — to the point where every word he said to me felt like an intrusion. At the same time, he has surely sensed my irritation and distance and has, in turn, drawn himself closer. Begging to play constantly. Negative attention-seeking by whining, disobeying, and amping up behavior that he knows gets under my skin.
Yesterday, I had a training for my summer job for the better part of the afternoon and I couldn’t get out of the house fast enough. Four hours sitting in a private school auditorium seemed like a spa day compared to more of what home has been like lately. But today was looming large. A whole day with no plans.
But then I had that thought as soon as I opened my eyes. Why am I swimming upstream? Why, when his behavior is driven by seeking attention am I so hell bent on witholding my attention? Why, when all he wants is to play, am I so committed to finding ways not to play? Why, when what I want is to spend pleasant, fun time with my son whom I love do I dread it?
I called him upstairs.
“What could we do today that would make this the most fun day ever?” I asked him as I pulled out a piece of paper and a crayon. We made a list.
And then, surprising m*, The Who, and even myself, I committed to doing everything on it. First, we played a 15-minute game of Hide-and-Seek, which is actually becoming a little more fun now that he can count higher. (Of course, he counted to 100 one of the times, which was no picnic for me as I crouched behind the cardboard playhouse, but it was kind of fun to hear him counting.)
After Hide-and-Seek, we got dressed to walk to the playground. Sure, it was approaching 90 degrees and humid today, but having this list and knowing I was committing myself to only The Who was sort of a relief. All the pressure of trying to get just ten minutes to myself was gone. I stopped being annoyed that I had no time and that he was talking to me all the time because that’s what I was in for.
Next on our list was “the park” but when I suggested going back to get the car to drive to the park, he didn’t seem interested. He said the ball field across the street could be the park and so we hung out there for a little while, cheering on the old-timers playing softball before moving on to lunch.
Our list had “board game” on it next, so we headed home for a rousing game of dominoes. I mean, well, as rousing as dominoes can be.
I could tell that rain was on its way and I knew if we wanted to get bike-riding in, we’d have to get to it, so we came in the back door and went right out the front.
We played “store” after that, which was really a replication of shopping at BJ’s. He was the customer, coming through the check out line and I handed him a “receipt” (which he had made by cutting strips of paper) and then I had to punch it with the hole puncher “to make sure he only had the things he paid for.” After “store”, we read a book and you would think that our list was completed.
We are officially the most tired people in the world right now. It was a hugely full day, but actually, a lot of fun. He was in bed and asleep before 7:30 and I am going to bed soon, not dreading tomorrow, which is a nice change of pace. Several times today, he leaned into me, kissed me, patted me, or told me I was his “best friend.” I’m not saying that I could do this every day. I’m not saying that I could even do it once a week, but doing it wasn’t horrible. And it was a good reminder that all kids really want is to have undivided attention that doesn’t feel like a chore. And even though it was a really full day, it was so much easier than trying to do nothing. So much easier to go with the flow than to swim upstream.