Learn to be proactive once your child outgrows physical caretaking
A few months ago, my five-year-old Samson was taking a shower. He is tall and big for his age. He has white hair, blue eyes, and a ready smile with two rows of gleaming white toddler teeth. He likes monster trucks, Batman and Transformers.
“STICK YOUR HEAD OUT, SAMBOY!” I yelled over the roaring shower. “TIME FOR SHAMPOO!”
Samson leaned his dripping wet head out of the shower. I raked my shampoo fingers through his hair, then helped him thoroughly rinse it out.
Suddenly, it hit me. This was one of the rare ways he still needs me to physically care for him. It’s one of the last motherhood duties where I am forced to touch him.
My six-month-old baby Hannah is different. I naturally touch, hold, and cuddle her all day long as I care for her. I nurse her, change her diaper, and hold her all day long. Samson doesn’t need me to do any of those things for him.
My three-year-old Esther is also different from Samson. I dress her, put her in her car seat, buckle her up, dress and undress her, and help her go to the bathroom. Samson doesn’t need me to do any of those things for him.
But that doesn’t mean he no longer needs physical affection.
Mounds and mounds of research show how important physical affection is for children. But how do we remember to show physical affection to our older children? How do we find ways to show them affection when they outgrow the physical caretaking years? We don’t want them to get lost in the shuffle and business of the younger children. And all parents want to develop good habits of affection for the older years.
Here are some ideas to help you! These are easy to incorporate in your busy mom day, to give your older child physical affection.
- When they leave the house. When they leave, give them a hug and/or a kiss! Maybe it’s school, sports practice, or a fun outing with dad. Sweep them up like you did when they were a toddler, and wrap them up in a big mama bear hug!
- When they return home. Make a big deal about it. “Welcome home, Samboy! WHAT! Where’s my hug?!!? I missed you, buddy!” They may not be the cute toddler that goes crazy when they see you after they’ve been gone. But it doesn’t mean they don’t feel the same way inside. 😉
- When they wake up. Every time I pick baby Hannah out of her crib in the morning, I try to remember to also show my five-year-old morning physical affection, too. When Samson stumbles out of his blue Batman bedroom, I sing out, “Good morning, Samson! I love you!” I grab him in a pajama hug, and peck the top of his disheveled bed-hair with a mom kiss!
- When they go to bed. No matter how tired I am, I always give my children “hugs and kisses” before I turn out the light. I will do this until they leave the house, like my mom did!
- When they eat. Mealtimes with multiple children are hectic! I feel like I’m putting out fires constantly. But it’s a great, three-times-a-day activity to remind me to show my oldest physical affection. So I STOP in the middle of our meal, and reach over and just rub his back for a few seconds. I may ask him a question or just smile quietly at him. Babies get lots of affection during mealtimes, when we hold them to nurse or bottle-feed. Let’s give our older ones mealtime affection, too!
STOP AND SMELL: Soon our little darlings will be big darlings. Be proactive now in developing good physical affection habits to carry into the older years. Find ways in your everyday routine to remind you to give a hug or kiss to your older children. It’s good for them, and it’s good for you!
STOP AND SMELL YOUR CHILD’S BIRTHDAY
Ever since experiencing a miscarriage, I view my children’s birthdays differently. No longer are they just a party. No longer are they a trite celebration. Oh, no. Birthdays are a time to STOP and thank God for an incredible gift: another year of life with our child!
We celebrated my Esther’s third birthday this week. I got so emotional the morning of her party, as I iced her strawberry cupcakes. I just couldn’t believe God has already given us three whole delightful years with her.
That may sound silly and emotional to some, when we have the whole rest of her life ahead. But I have brushed shoulders with too many mamas that have only tasted a few years, a few months, a few weeks, a few days, a few hours or even a few minutes, this side of heaven, with their children. I have seen them, with tears running down their cheeks, thanking God for that short period of time with their child. They are my modern day heroes.
So, yes, I cried tears of gratitude to God for three delicious years with my baby girl Esther.
Each year of life God gives us, with our little one, is a GIFT.
When you watch (or help) your tiny darling blow out their candles this year, remember to savor the moment. And maybe breathe a little silent prayer to thank the Giver of life for another year. He is a good and merciful God. “Behold, children are a gift from the Lord…” Ps. 127:3