Good is Good: 5 Ways to Get Closer to Your Kids
Thursday, March 03, 2011
I still remember the first time I fed my son Seamus a bottle.
He was six months old. I lived alone in a bachelor pad on the corner of Massachusetts and Commonwealth avenues in Boston. It was a moment that saved me. The smell of him. The feeling of his little body going limp with sleep. The sound of him suckling in my darkened bedroom.
I held him long after he went to sleep. Finally, I placed him gently into the pack ’n’ play crib I had set up nearby. Still I watched him sleeping, not wanting the moment to pass. Seamus is as big as I am now; a strapping teenager. He has an older sister who just went to her prom. I got remarried after six years as a divorced dad and had another boy, Cole, who is now 6. So I still get to read bedtime stories and lay in his cowboy bunk bed well after he is asleep, just feeling him close and allowing the sensation of fatherhood to sweep over me like a cool breeze in a hot desert.
Maybe it is my difficulty with words, or my tendency to spin off into a male Eeyore grouchiness, or my struggle throughout my life to feel like I belong—but to me, the touchstone of faith, unplugging, and serenity has always been physical contact with my kids, when they were small and even now when I, bad back and all, play an all-out game of one-on-one basketball with Seamus.
I know that I am not alone in this feeling of connection. Moms obviously have deep instinctual drives that take over the moment their babies are born. But the reaction of men’s bodies to physical contact is no less powerful. I have experienced similar relaxation by getting down on the ground and rubbing my yellow lab puppy Penny’s belly. So, if you are a mom, dad, dog owner, or just an aunt or uncle, listen up. Here are some easy ways to forget your troubles and bliss out.
Help a baby get to sleep.
Rocking chairs are great. The standing sway of the hips works too. Sing some songs that come from the deep recesses of your childhood brain. Use your senses. Feel the child. She will find that little nook between your shoulder and neck to rest her head.
Read a Dr. Seuss book.
The guy is actually my life guru. I have read the books over and over again to my three kids and each time I find something reassuring in the message, especially as Cole, my 6-year-old, snuggles into my shoulder.
Soak in the innocence.
It sounds crazy, but I often linger in my kids’ beds after I have gotten them to drop off, just to watch them breathe and to stay in the bubble of their sweet smell before getting up to go back into the big bad world to face reality.
Wrestle, tickle, repeat.
With kids 2 to 16, playful contact is important for them and for you. We tear up the house, to my wife’s chagrin. The kids love to be chased and tickled and I love to see the joy that it brings them.
Hug and kiss.
My little one runs to me when I get home with a crazy hug and kiss that are worth the price of admission in life. The big guys still hug me whenever they leave the house.
There’s nothing that isn’t common sense here, but there is something that is magical. As adults, we get stressed out, confused, and depressed. Kids (and dogs) have something to teach us about the simple goodness of life. Just listen to them and you will be A-OK!
For more of Tom's works, as well as other pieces on related topics, go to The Good Men Project Magazine online, here.
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