This weekend was the annual father-daughter camping trip. I look forward to it, as it is an opportunity to spend very good quality time with my 12 and 7 year old sons, and this year was no different.
On Friday, my 12 year old asked if he could have a sleepover with a few friends. At first I resisted because I like to have that weekend to spend with him. But after I thought about it more, I agreed, telling him that he and I would spend time together on Saturday night.
He had his sleepover, and after our activities on Saturday, I took the boys and my mother-in-law out to dinner as is our annual tradition on this weekend.
During our meal, my 12 year old was extremely talkative, telling us about school and his friends. We had a lengthy discussion about adolescent boys and fighting and what society’s expectations are of males. This discussion was very illuminating about how he interprets the way boys view each other in terms of strength and toughness. At the end of our discussion I told him that he had very good grasp on the appropriate way to be a strong man in society while still not being aggressive. I was very pleased with his outlook on this issue.
He continued to talk for the rest of dinner, and after my 7 year old went to bed, he and I watched a movie together. When he went to bed that night, I hugged him tightly and told him how much I love him. After he went to bed, I sat for a while and basked in the warm loving feelings I had towards him, and the gratitude I felt for our ability to spend this precious time together, connecting soul to soul.
The next morning, my mother-in-law told me that what she realized from watching what went on at dinner the night before, is that my 12 year old desperately needs my time and attention. The oldest of three kids and very independent, he usually gets my attention last. But that does not make it good for him or how I want to be.
I heard the message loud and clear. After our lovely evening, my heart was still wide open, as were my eyes and ears. As I sat in church that morning, I mulled over ways that I could give him more of my attuned presence and attention. He found the Sandlot movie on television after church and him I would love to watch it, but that moment was not a good one. I told him that I realized this weekend that I do not give him nearly the time and attention that I want to give him, that I love him so very much and I made a commitment to him that I would do a better job of making time for him. He did not want to wait, but agreed to, and our whole family ended up watching the movie later that afternoon. It was wonderful. I felt connected to him (he laid next to me on the couch and put his legs on my lap) and I felt really good to be honoring my commitment to him as well. Staying attuned to and connected with our kids is a moment to moment, constant awareness we must stay engaged in.