With DQ gone at her dad’s house, the Taz and I were left to our own devices. For one week, I was a mom to an only child. And let me tell you, it was very odd at first. For one thing, it was now up to me to make sure that the Taz was waking up on time in the morning. I know, that sounds strange. I’m his mom, I should be waking him up. And in the mornings, I do. I turn off the blaring radio on the alarm and shake each child awake, letting them know that breakfast is on the table. And eventually both kids stumble down the stairs, waking up as they eat. But in between my wake up time and their venture down the stairs, DQ is in the room kicking her brother every time that he falls back asleep. Because of her diligence, the kids are able to get ready in a timely manner and leave the house on time. But this week, after wondering what was taking the Taz so long to get ready, I’d find him still asleep 20 minutes after I shut off his alarm.
Another thing is that I didn’t have my little truth teller (aka “tattle tale”) letting me know when the Taz “forgot” to brush his teeth, or when he fibbed at times that I asked if he had. I didn’t have my obedient child cleaning beside me, picking up the slack as the Taz lazily picked up, well, nothing. I was his entertainment since his sister wasn’t there to pick fights with him, and he was forced to stick by my side every time we left the house since my built-in babysitter was gone.
But most of all, this week I got a chance to get to know my kid better, and to appreciate him for who he is rather than who I have expected him to be.
Without his sister there, the Taz was a whole different kid. Suddenly, he had all the attention he needed, and wasn’t fighting to be seen or heard. He was more serious, and we had deeper conversations this week – real conversations. Without his sister there to take over for him, he quickly turned the corner from being a dependent child to being a responsible kid. I also realized just how easygoing the kid is. Whenever I needed to stop what he was doing so we could take care of yet another errand, he didn’t fight me on it. And while in the car, we’d chat about just about everything.
In a perfect world, parents would be able to give their kids a significant amount of their undivided attention, getting to know each child as a separate human being with different goals and dreams and interests than their brothers and sisters. In the real world, time has a way of slipping past us. The daily grind of everyday life takes precedence over slowing down and enjoying a soul to soul conversation with each child, one on one. With more than one kid, the time spent with each child individually grows significantly smaller.
But we still have expectations for our children. And we expect them to be fulfilled. Good grades, a clean room, telling the truth, toeing the line… And when they disappoint us, when they make dumb decisions or do stupid things, we get mad and tell them so – that we expect better from them. Perhaps sometimes we are expecting too much. Perhaps we are missing the point on loving our children for who they really are. Perhaps we are expecting them to be someone they aren’t. And perhaps who they are as their own person is being drowned out by who they are as a younger sibling.
This week I was able to see past the kid I had been pegging him out to be. And I was able to see this intelligent being that was perfectly capable of acting 9 years old – and beyond. He didn’t have an older sister bossing him around and telling him what to do, therefore he could make his own decisions for himself. And I also got the chance to be reintroduced to the Taz – a kid who likes long talks in the car, racing to the other end of the block, reading up on the scores of the latest ball game, creating Lego masterpieces, skateboarding with his friends, any electronic gadget that has games on it, and being the only kid getting his mother’s attention.
This summer it is my goal to spend more individual quality time with each of my kids, letting them have a chance to take a break from being a sibling and getting to know them as just DQ or just Taz. I urge you to make it your goal, as well, with each of your children.