The first gift you can give your child this summer is the time and space for unstructured play. The second gift you can give your child this summer is yourself.
“How are you doing today?” my counselor asked as I entered her office. I wondered if she noticed the smudged mascara on my face and assumed, correctly, that I had been crying. “I’m stressed,” I said, skipping the niceties and and plopping on the floral couch. “My kids are making me insane lately, and I am especially struggling with my son. He’s just so strong willed and independent and emotional and we’re having trouble getting him listen to us and I’m running out of ideas of what to do.” Just this morning, I went on, I had to navigate the meltdown that happens every time I ask him to…
When we take the time and energy to be present with our children, pursue them, and practice empathy during their emotional episodes, not only do we help teach them how to work through their emotions, we reap a relational reward. I was reminded of this last week. Let me tell you the story, and what I took away from it.
That tiny little hand wrapped around your thumb. That indescribable scent of that downy-soft head. That feeling of warm, sweet breath against your skin. The sound of the little sighs and coos. As a first time mother, I couldn't get enough of holding my baby. I was amazed at how how deeply connected I felt to my child, how powerful my maternal instinct was, how strongly I desired to be near and nurture my little one.
Have you heard that old advice: "It doesn't really matter, a baby won't remember that anyway"? It's ok, the baby won't remember being separated from you after birth. Don't fret, a baby won't remember crying alone in the crib for an hour or two. Don't worry, the baby won't remember that you left for that weekend getaway. Well, research has shown that while the baby may not consciously remember those moments of separation, they will affect her. How we interact with our newborns does matter, and, in fact, it matters a great deal.