The little things have been on my mind lately, the little things that you share with your child that make a big difference. It could be the smile that you know has comes from a child’s toes or maybe it’s the belly laugh that brings a tear of happiness to your eyes or even the simple raising of an eyebrow which shows the two of you have shared a secret joke. These little things have been happening more and more with Stig; he is definitely moving into a very optimistic space right now. If I gaze into his eyes I see pools of calm created by the contentment he has with himself and those around him. His confidence is blossoming and his personality is shining through. Although still waters run deep and things are not all plain sailing, we look for the positive in all situations; like his ability to recover from a fall and continue his day in a way that was not possible a year ago.
So how is it that we’ve come to create these little things that mean so much? How have we got here? and what have we brought with us on our journey that has ensured our arrival at what is for now a pretty good spot? What I’ve discovered is that the little things that you do, and keep doing, create the other lovely little things that mean so much. Here are three little things that have made a big difference for us.
We know it, that age old advice that, in order to be certain you have a child’s attention make sure they are looking at you, you have their eyes. For whatever reason I have taken this as gospel, the law and from the moment the boys came into our lives I was down on the floor talking to them at their level. If they brought me something I’d crouch to thank them, maybe even gently lift their chin so they’d see my thanking eyes. I think it’s important to remember that this is not just advice for giving out orders or being firm it’s for the good bits too. The “I love you” times or the “I know what we’ll do today…” conversations.
Stig’s eye contact was very poor when he first came to us, even with himself, I’ve reported before about his inability to look at himself in the mirror. When being instructed to do things he was not at all happy about he would wave his hands in front of his face, to avoid the eye connection. But I’ve never backed down on this and still use the phrase “I need eyes” when addressing the boys and will wait until I have them before going on. They don’t always want to give them and there is, as always with children, exceptions to the rule, those moments of shame when you know it’s impossible for them to give. However, where ever I can and as much as possible, I’ve made eye contact and smiled, hoping to encourage them to find my eyes for reassurance and to make a connection with me.
Not long after the boys came to live with us we had a Social worker visit, not our regular SW another support worker she might even have been a psychologist type. Anyway she marveled at a game Stig and daddy had created called “breaking out of the egg”, can’t remember if it was a chicken or a dinosaur. It involved daddy sitting on the floor with his legs crossed whilst Sig curled up in a ball in his lap. Mr H then enclosed his arms around him and Stig proceeded to break free. Well it was considered a psychological triumph with mutterings of the symbolic representation of “rebirth into a new family”. Mr H nodded in agreement feeling proud but knowing that this had by no means crossed his mind, what it had created was contact, closeness, arms around his little boy and the beginnings of demanding a hug. “Daddy can we play the egg game?”
Stig’s hugs for a long time were one sided, you’d squeeze he wouldn’t, or he would reverse into you. I’d try to get him used to contact with little bits of touch, a ruffle of his hair in passing, rubbing his back as he watched the television or stroking his arm as we talked. He would refuse comfort hugs for at least the first three years. He didn’t know it but I still gave them, as soon as an opportunity arose after a fall out I encourage some contact and warmth between us. I was completely bowled over when during an upset he started shouting “I need a hug, I need a hug to help me calm down”. Crazy as it sounds this was sometimes hard because minutes before he might have been kicking and spitting at me, now he wanted a hug and I really didn’t want to give. But I gave it; ok occasionally not, but mostly I did, you have to act these things sometimes.
Post baths and swimming are always good for snuggles I find, as is time in the swimming pool when they hold on for safety. Holding hands is such a small moment of contact that can be so special. I told Stig that when I squeezed his hand I was telling him “I love you”. So whilst walking along I would give a little squeeze every now and then, like a little game, he soon cottoned on and started squeezing back. We still do it sometimes. It’s about slowly building on things, a squeeze of a hand really can turn into a squeeze of a hug, like the ones I get from Stig now.
Stig didn’t want kisses and that was fine even though I really wanted to give them to him. So I asked if I could kiss his hand, he agreed as long as it was a “little kiss”. So a small light quick kiss is what it was, once then twice and then three times. Slowly, with his consent it moved up his arm and over time it moved up his arm and onto his tummy, lots of small light “little kisses”. Then at bedtime he started to ask for “little kisses” and he would giggle with delight as I lightly covered his body, but not his face. Eventually we moved onto the face but not the lips, we’d also do “flutterbys”, the opening and closing of eye lashes on his cheek. Kisses on the mouth were not encouraged by him or sought. I did however discover that he was happy to touch tongues, seemed a bit odd but I went with it, each night we would put the tips of our tongues together and he would smile. Odd, but worth doing for that smile.
We have lots of kisses now, kisses in passing, kisses good bye, kisses for sorry, kisses for hello, kisses good night and lots of I love you kisses, kisses on the lips and sometimes still “little kisses”.
So these three little things have been implemented, made common practice and repeatedly put into action. We occasionally audit and refresh but they are three little constants in our lives, never removed, withheld or made obsolete. They are not the only little things but with these three little things we started to build the foundations required for the much bigger things.
I’d love to hear what your family little things are, please do share……
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