When I came to the understanding that my son needed more of my direct attention, I had some previous obligations in place and offered to take him with me so he wouldn’t feel left behind, he declined, preferring to be sat by a family friend but he had to go to her house. The next morning before leaving for school he begged me to be able to take his tablet to the sitter. I told him he was in luck since he’d be going to school where they had a library so he could take out whatever books he wanted for his amusement. He’s always been an excellent reader, way above his age range. He said he really didn’t like reading very well any more. What a shame was my reply as he grudgingly headed off to school.
Once I got home that night we snuggled in and I offered to read to him like the good old days. On the bedside stand I had How I Made My First Ten Million or Happier Than God. He chose neither, so Happier Than God it was! I opened to a random chapter and it was about unexpected consequences and the Law of Opposites. I told him it was as if they wrote that chapter just for him. He didn’t want to listen so I told him if he turned over I’m sure the drone of my voice would help lull him right off to sleep. He grumbled as he rolled over and fell asleep.
I offered to walk him to the bus stop again in the morning but he declined. When he got home from school he asked if he could do the dishes! I was astounded and said, “Of course, I’ll be right out and help you!” He told me I didn’t need to but I told him I would welcome the time together and would be happy to because this was all about us having quality time! He shared about some awesome grades he’d gotten back that day and we had light conversation. I asked if he’d had a good night’s sleep and he said he had. “Oh, it must have been the book I read to you last night! We can read again tonight!” “Nooooo Mom!”
The next night, unexpectedly a life long friend of mine came to visit. He came through the door asking for my son. He went right to him saying, “Buddy, how are you? I came to see you! I heard you need more love!!” He chased him around the house playing and finally put him in a headlock and told him if he ever got in trouble again he’d move in just to prove how much loving support there was available for him. For the duration of the visit he made sure my son was feeling the full availability of love for him. I looked at my son over my glasses and said, “You weren’t expecting my entourage were you!?”
He was at his wits end and about to crawl out of his skin if he got any more loving attention. Giving him punishment or restriction would have given him a battle to be on the side of but when everyone around him was just giving him more loving attention there was nothing to oppose, no conflict to win or lose. I had realized that unconditional love is indefensible but hadn’t previously considered using it as a rearing tool per se. I felt like I’d found the jackpot!
Then I had to decide how to end it. I knew my son had had an effective dose of love and that my goal of the moment was accomplished so I told him after this had been going on for several days, that I had thought of a way for him to get his tablet back. Not the iPhone, that was going to take more time and building back of the trust in our relationship. I told him that he had shown me how proficient he had become at doing the dishes and that with doing the job I was sure he understood how much work it truly was for me to work all day, grocery shop, cook dinner and then clean. If he was willing to voluntarily take on the responsibility for dish washing it would show me that he was serious about helping out in our household and building our relationship on trust. He said he could do that.
Since he was willing to take it on with no further back talk I offered to let him go to the Super Bowl party the next day that he had asked permission for 3 weeks before so he could remember what it was like to have a life in which he’d earned privileges. He was so overjoyed he flew into my arms with a big thank you and couldn’t get the dishes done fast enough and he did them well.
There had been an incident when he was 6 that I wanted to nip in the bud. I wanted to impress upon him that choosing behavior he knew was wrong could result in not getting opportunities he didn’t know were coming. He wanted a Wii game system for years and his Dad and I had intended to get him one for Christmas that year. Because of his behavior I told him we could not in good conscience get him a Wii and that we wanted him to understand what his behavior had caused. At his tender age he was crushed and didn’t get a Wii for years. Before he got his tablet back I reminded him that he hadn’t suspected the consequences he’d received those years before and that he hadn’t expected all the love that was available for him from this latest incident. I was also sure he hadn’t suspected my entourage who showed him more unconditional love than he could deal with! I made it clear that he had underestimated me several times and that I could assure him there was even more love available for him if he showed me with his behavior that he needed it and that there were more creative things than losing his technology. What he’d experienced so far was but a peek into Pandora’s box should he underestimate me again. When I asked if we understood each other, his response was “Crystal!!”
There’s more to the story but that’s all for this time. I had managed to release us from the restriction and punishment that both parent and child go through when they are at odds. The entire time I was loving, upbeat, supportive, peaceful and able to be happy. No anger, yelling, arguments, frustration or doubt I had been through in the past with my elder son. I was able to love myself more in that and was able to thrive from the love I was giving to my son rather than looking for it to be shown to me by him. The story is ongoing. . .