I finally broke the ice and learned how to relate to my two male offspring, ages 5 and 3. My empirical research was conducted first and foremost by spending a good 30 minutes sitting quietly, mouth shut, observing their behavior- specifically, the interaction between these two puppies in the "family room laboratory."
The “eureka” moment came shortly after I put on a “classic” movie for all my children to watch- West Side Story. I had wanted them to “understand” a little more about our culture- namely New York in the fifties and how different cultures of first-generation Americans related to one another. I never really saw the movie as violent per se, at least in comparison to the other “junk” kids watch these days.
Never miss a local story.
However, my boys understood things differently and began imitating the Sharks and the Jets as they sought to re-enact all the brawling that transpired on the television screen. I watched as they mounted one another playfully simulating all sorts of martial arts and wrestling techniques, while repeating catchy "one-liners" from the flick’s dialogue.
The only comment I made was,
“Just be careful not to throw your brother into the wall or table corner and remember- you are PLAYING and not REAL fighting.”
“OK Ma’,” they both managed to mumble while panting heavily, tongues hanging out, like two Saint Bernards.
They went a few rounds, grunting, panting and bellowing out all sorts of animal-mating-type calls. Then, one got hurt and it was game over. Just like that. Of course, at this point I had to intervene before it came down to “real” blows.
Moments later I see the two at it again- rolling on the floor like two lion cubs frolicking in the savannah.
"Wait"-I thought, “Weren’t they about to kill each other a moment ago?”
Then it dawned on me. Precisely, mid-movie, during all their simulations, it hit me in the head like a BRICK. To truly relate to my sons, (not sure if other boys are this way,) I have to modify my approach and regard them as a type of “human-canine mixed breed." Until I am "blue in the face," I can talk, explain, nag, remind, instruct, lecture, demand- All. Day. Long.
But, NONVERBAL communication is what they really best relate to. My three year-old boy is a naïve, sweet, affectionate child- bursting with love and demonstrates his emotions by clinching the “object of his affection” while simultaneously emitting innocent murmurs of pleasure. The 5 year-old typically will lunge upon his beloved to the likes of a “lion-esque” ambush, while rubbing his head up and down against his prey without uttering a sound. This is how he says, “I love you.”
So, in an effort to “bond on their level,” I went savage. I threw myself onto the floor and started to tickle them into submission, while shouting out incomprehensible Bruce Lee type-wails. When we were all drenched with sweat and out of gas, they both looked at me with such admiration and, the 5 year-old, mouth gaping wide, exclaimed,
“Mommy, you are so COOL. I didn’t know you could do that!”
“Score!” I thought to myself. Now that I got their attention, maybe I could “slip in” summoning them to shower.
Because now they REALLY smell like dogs!
And, guess what? They were more than willing to make Mama happy because now I had “spoken their language.”
Now, if only I can figure out a way to "relate" to my testosterone-laden 5 year-old in an effort to get him to stop humping the floor!
Any advice on that one?