My little one, my Lyle, he's been struggling lately with big, challenging emotions that he doesn't always know how to express, despite his many words. It's easy to be loud, he's discovered, loud and bossy and angry; not so easy to say, "Mommy, I miss you. I'm sad when you to go to work. Please stay home and play with me."
I chatted with my wonderful friend Kristen about this sad subject a few nights ago, and she (as you'd expect if you know her) was full of fantastic ideas, many of which I know I've heard before (and even suggested to others!) but needed to hear again myself at this very moment in time, about this very child. I'm so grateful that she took the time to help me with this when I needed it.
And so along came this morning. Lyle has been reading Dinofours books like they're going out of style (which is technically the case - they're out of print but you can still buy them used for really cheap on amazon!) and is subsequently finding the language to share his sad feelings with me far more readily than he has with any other strategy I've tried. So today he approached me, took me by the hand and bravely said, "Mommy, don't go to work yet. I want to play with you some more." And cried.
Now, to many of you, this probably seems heart-breaking. To me, it's just a little bit heart-warming, but only because I've been waiting for him to open up and say what's in his little heart, rather than showing me through unpleasant behaviors that only left me guessing.
I immediately employed two new strategies. First, I asked him if he'd like to call me on the phone after lunch so that we could talk to each other. His little eyes lit right up through his tears and he said, "Yes!" So I arranged this with the babysitter.
But then I suggested that I could also give him something special of mine to hold today when he's missing me. Now this idea he LOVED. "What is it?" he asked, following me to my bedroom as I searched the top of my dresser (didn't I used to have some shells or special rocks up there?). "Oh, it's really, really special," I replied with excitement, as I came up empty-handed and tried to hide my worry.
And then it hit me: the heart. My Heart is Hot heart! Didn't I say I felt it was almost time to pass it along to someone, but I didn't know who it was for?
It was for Lyle. Of course it was.
Child of my heart.
Child who wants to be with me every moment of every day and night, who carries around a sadness under the surface so much of the time because I'm either not going to be with him later, or wasn't home earlier in the day, or might not show up in his dreams that night.
I gave Lyle my heart.
I filled it with hugs and kisses and all my Mama love, and then handed it to him before I left with instructions to hold onto it when he was missing me.
For the first time in a few weeks, there were no tears when I left the house. He held the pretty glass heart all day long. It sat next to him at every meal, and was under his pillow as he napped. It was in his hands when I came home from work early due to a snowstorm, and he continued to hold onto it as we read books and played cars together all afternoon. "I love my heart," he told me before bed, "it's so pretty. And it has even more than your hugs and kisses in it. It has all these little red things!", noting the flecks of color inside.
"That's all my love, sweetie. That part is the love."