Many of us have discovered that children need time alone with their parents without their siblings vying for attention. Call me overly sensitive or a softy but I have yet to have a day or night out with just one child, other than on Outdoor Ed trips. As soon as I mention the idea I am met with tears and accusatory words, like “abandonment”, are spewed in my direction.
After a recent unexpected day alone with Thumper, I am convinced that children need this time with their parents, especially as they grow older. Yesterday, after dropping the younger boys off at a camp, we decided to take a mile hike up Red Hill in Carbondale. After witnessing how capable he was while backpacking in the Canyonlands I was excited to take our first summer hike in the mountains.
The first half of the hike was everything I could have hoped it would be. He was relishing his time alone with me, pointing out all the rocks and tree stumps that he would have launched off of if had he been on his mountain bike.
I kept feeling his soft, warm hand grasping mine as we hiked up the large hill. I let the heat permeate into my body knowing that I was living on borrowed time with him and that this intimacy would not last forever. Midway, his emotions took a full swing to the dark side. He was hot, tired and hungry and did not want to go up anymore. I had flashbacks from all of our tumultuous adventures back when he was a toddler. The whining got unbearable and I finally told him to zip it.
Thumper, with all of his abounding energy, has been known to plunge into deep despair when things don’t go the way he envisions they will. I told him that he needed to learn how to keep his negative emotions under control or he will have a tough go of it when he reaches puberty and all emotions reach greater depths. From that comment emerged an entirely different discussion.
We reached the top and he crumbled into an emotional mess telling me that he knew I thought he was a fat and lazy boy and that he was stupid and never wanted to do anything. He was in full self-hate mode but I had heard it all before. I told him that sometimes exercising can bring forth unexpected emotions.
Thumper has always been a mixed bag of emotions. I have learned to filter through the drama and get to the heart of the anxiety. We sat at the top of the hike and watched the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers merge together at the confluence. Mount Sopris loomed magnificently in front of us with her peaks still dusted in snow. We talked and talked until Brevitt released every negative thought. He allowed my comments to sink in and after winding down he requested that we stop talking about this deep stuff and find something happy to talk about. We emerged from the hike still holding hands, his mood altered to a much happier state.
In the evening I lay down with him. The full moon has been wreaking havoc on his ability to fall asleep, and has undoubtedly been a contributor to his earlier behavior. I began a relaxing meditative dialogue for him that I had picked up from my yoga instructors, “Relax your head and let your body sink into the bed beneath you. Relax your eyes, your nose, your mouth. Relax your jaw, your teeth, your lips…etc..”. We both fell fast asleep by the time I got to his ankles.
I learned a huge lesson yesterday. Children do desperately need this time alone with their parents so that they can feel safe and unleash all of their harbored emotions and worries. Time does not always allow for this so I am going to have to be strong and make sure that they all get equal solo time with both Wade and I.
If I ever let myself think too deeply I break out in a sweat. What a dauntingly huge responsibility it is to be a parent. The most wounded adults I know are products of bad parenting.
Children do not raise themselves and it takes a lot of work and research to ensure a secure, happy, healthy child. I am glad that Thumper put me back on track and I naively am looking forward to another hike with him tomorrow. I can only hope that most of his baggage will remain at the top of Red Hill and will not rear its ugly head at Hanging Lake.