The phrase “Reach Out and Touch Someone” from a Bell System phone commercial of many years ago has been stuck in my head recently. Over the last two weeks, it has become my mantra. I was feeling disconnected from my toddler son and didn’t know how to remedy it.
My son and I were attached… very attached. As a baby, he never liked to be put down. I used to wear him all the time, nurse him on demand, sleep with him on my lap or snuggled next to me, and even sit next to him in the back seat of the car when someone else was driving. As he got older and more independent, he wanted to walk on his own rather than be carried. He was nursing less frequently. Soon before my baby girl arrived, we installed her carseat in the back which eliminated my spot. Now that my baby girl is here, she and I have started sleeping in a different room to avoid having the kids wake each other up. My son and I have lost a lot of our physical (and, as a result, some emotional) connection. I think both of us started feeling the effects of this separation.
My baby girl is now being worn all the time, nursing on demand, and sleeping snuggled next to me. Occasionally, I have to squeeze into the back seat of the car to sit next to her if she really needs me to. My son is off playing and doing things toddler boys do. He is growing so fast, getting so big, and becoming more independent each day. But he still needs his mama, and his mama still needs him. My biggest question became how do I reconnect with my son?
I recently went to a free program in my town for little ones and their caregivers. I ran into a friend who is a very like-minded parent. I watched as she wore and cared for her baby boy and still maintained a strong connection to her toddler. He would wander off and go investigate a new toy or book, but would come back periodically for a “recharge.” His mother would squeeze him tight and give him a kiss and then he would happily wander off again. I had a feeling that she was on to something. This simply might be what my son and I needed. Just as we plug in our phones to recharge the battery when it starts getting low, we needed to plug in to each other to recharge our physical and emotional batteries.
When we left the program, I talked to my son about “recharging.” I explained to him that sometimes Mama needed an extra hug or kiss and sometimes he might need one. Recharges are non-negotiable. If someone needs a recharge, everything else stops and we wrap our arms around each other and squeeze until we have enough power to last us a while. I wasn’t sure how he’d respond to this concept. In the beginning, I initiated almost all of our recharges, but he happily complied. During the past week, he has been asking for more and more, and has even recharged with others including his father and grandmother. Overall, he seems happier, is feeling more connected and loved, and is reminded that we are here for him whenever he needs us.
Having noticed a difference in his demeanor and behavior, I have made a conscious effort to be a lot more affectionate towards him. We wrestle, have tickle fights, and blow raspberries on our tummies. If we’re sitting near each other, I try to physically connect to him somehow – either inviting him to sit on my lap, putting my arm around him, or just placing my hand on his knee. I can’t always get him to hold my hand while walking, but I certainly do try.
I have reached out and touched someone… a very important someone. A hug, a kiss, a squeeze, and/or a loving touch have made a world of difference in our lives. We have been revitalized. We have been reconnected. We have been recharged.