Here's what typically happens when I pick up Marcus from school. When I arrive, he's usually engaged in some kind of activity. Today, it was a puzzle.
Then, either Audrey or I say, "Maaaarcus. We're here!" Once he hears us, he looks up.
Then he flashes his melt-your-heart smile.
And joy overflows for the whole world.
Of course, he is happy to see familiar faces after a long day of school. But the real reason why he gets so excited is because he is MADLY in love with me. Mike will tell you that Marcus idolizes me, can't live without me, needs me desperately. I am not only his caretaker and nurturer, but his security blanket and his greatest comfort. When he's bored, he just comes to hug me and smooch me, or just put his hand on me to reassure himself that I'm there. Ever met a mama's boy? My son is one, that's for sure.
Don't get me wrong...I welcome all the affection and I cherish his love with all my heart. Plus, I could probably out cuddle him. But sometimes his dependence on me takes a toll. The reason why he loves me so much is because I understand him. Even though he can't adequately verbalize his wants and frustrations, I know them all. For Marcus, I am his life translator and I can provide for him everything he can't get or accomplish for himself. No wonder why he adores me.
But Mike and I have been thinking about how to empower him more and help him gain independence, as well as give me some Mommy time-outs. Here are a few practical things I'm trying to consciously practice throughout the day.
1. Train him again to take naps by himself in his big boy bed (mattress on the floor). For a while, to improve his night sleep, I was trying to keep him from napping by just resting with him, but that backfired on us. So now, we're back to having him take naps on his own. He was one angry boy when he realized I was going to leave him alone again, but I think he's got the idea now.
2. Make him crawl to his high chair to eat, rather than bring him to the table. Same goes for making him crawl to his stroller when we leave the house.
3. Hold him upright to have him walk up the stairs, rather than carry him up.
4. Pretend not to understand him when he grunts for or points to something so that he is forced to use more language. (this one is very hard because he gets so frustrated)
5. Don't let him sit on my lap if there is a safe place for him to sit next to me.
6. Let him get frustrated when he can't operate his toys rather than prematurely rescue him to avoid a tantrum.
7. Refrain from feeding him as much as possible. Make him feed himself with his hands, even though he hates getting his fingers dirty, and even though feeding him makes meals 10 times faster.
8. Encourage him to get down from places on his own, even if he gets bruises in the process.
I know all these things sound like "Duh! That's what you should have done all along!" but it's taking faith on my part as a mom. The day goes by easier when I don't do all of the above. But I know it's best for him in the long run.
One day, Marcus is going to be a man. Yes, he'll be a man faced with unique challenges, but he'll have to be a man. We hope that despite his limitations, he can live to be a strong, faithful, respected, responsible man. I'm not always going to be there to help him. Our prayer is that one day, all that he can't do on his own will drive him to the One who already took care of his greatest needs for him. Hopefully, this belief in his loving Savior can empower him to be the strong man that we hope he'll be.
Until then, it's a little tougher love for my sweet mama's boy.