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.
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?