When my boys were younger, I easily remembered that often they would strike out boldly in to the world and then scurry back in to my arms. It was easy, as most often this was visible. Three steps out in to a busy room, followed by a return to my lap to watch from a safe space. As they grow older, I can forget that his very same thing will happen time and time again. Predictably, with the time between striking out and returning stretching longer and longer.
I wrote here, a while back, about how a child’s inner world shifts as their perspective of the wider world grows. I know both of my boys around age 8 and 9 have gone through this phase of being fearful of things they once were not. And I have come to know this as a reaction to understanding a wider world, to knowing more about what happens beyond the reaches of themselves and needing time and space for that to settle in to their understanding. They return to being secure again, time and space is needed though so the information truly can become a deeper part of their knowing about the world.
A few months back, both my boys wanted televisions in their rooms. Friends had them and there was great appeal to having all their favorite things with in a space that was their own. So we did some rearranging and made this a possibility for both of them. My husband and I joked that we would never see them again. While secretly knowing, we would simply be hanging out in their rooms more often. And there were days when doors where closed and I was only entering to deliver food and drink. They were in the thick of connecting with friends, exploring, discovering.
Something shifted though. It started with us all sharing in a game on “the big TV”. Which turned in to days of arguments over who would use the TV for what purpose, timers were put on, negotiating skills were truly tested. One heated night the oldest shouted “just go to your room to use your Xbox.” And the youngest proclaimed “I don’t want to be so far away.” He dug his heals in and once again we found ourselves re-arranging the house in order to meet his desire to be in the thick of things. To be closer to all of us and not so tucked away.
The following week, an Xbox returned to the “big TV” and a computer surfaced again. One night I was sitting back and could see, one husband racing in his simulator, one boy playing NHL 13, a boy in headphones on an Ipad watching videos, while I surfed the internet on an laptop. I said, “wow everyone is back in the shared space.” My oldest said “Ya, I like it better down here where I can be close to you guys and what everyone is doing.”
Without noticing they had returned to my proverbial lap, to find whatever comfort they needed as they continued to explore their passions. A time came when being tucked away was what they needed. So that is what we made happen. Then when the time to be close arrived again we also embraced that. With the same inviting arms as the toddler who stepped too far out in to the activity. I am certain this pattern will repeat itself time and time again. And that it will stretch beyond the walls of our home, to friends houses, to other cities and eventually a home of their own. The constant will be our open arms, always waiting to invite them back in.
Knowing we are always behind them with open arms gives my boys the courage to step out boldly in to the world. I believe that it is our connected relationship that gives them the courage to take risks, for knowing you have someone to fall back on is a most awesome sort of cushioning. This place that we create for them at first is a physical one, a lap, a home yet over time it becomes a place deep with in themselves that they can always count on for support and love through the ups and downs of this business of being alive.