This week my 12-year-old son and I took a few days off school. He is recovering from a heavy cold and I took the time off to look after him. I was also hoping to fill my own cup following some low-level ailments.
Yesterday, we took a little walk out in the sunshine. He was feeling nervous about taking a train by himself for the first time, to go and stay overnight with an adult mentor and friend of mine. The trip is a treat to see a theatre show in London, and although he has been looking forward to it, he felt daunted by having been sick and by being away with people he has never stayed with on his own before. “It would be ok if you were coming with me,” he said. “Can’t you just come and stay overnight too?”
The theatre tickets couldn’t be exchanged, but given the option to cancel he decided that he still wanted to go. I felt sorry about the bad timing of the cold, but know that he is ready for this bit of independence with friends that will take really good care of him. I thought that some Special Time would help ease his worry, and so I offered him half an hour to do whatever he wanted.
Reconnecting With Special Time
I’ve been feeling for a while that I’m running on empty. For the first time since my son was born I’m working full-time. In a busy secondary school, I am giving to kids all day long and my energy for parenting has been pretty low. Offering Special Time has felt like one extra thing to do and so lately it’s fallen by the wayside.
But yesterday we went back home and I set the timer for Special Time. He chose to play a game that we haven’t played a couple of years, where he gets to be the ‘King’ and I am the servant. In the game, he tells me exactly what he wants and I wait on him hand and foot. Because it is Special Time, I do this with absolute attentiveness, delight and love in my heart.
Let the Games Begin
First, he asked me to make his bed really nicely and set up the laptop to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons. Next, he sent me off for snacks and cups of lemon and ginger tea. I did all this gladly and then settled down on the bed with him cuddled in front of me. He focussed on the cartoons and I focussed on him, pouring in love by stroking his hair, kissing him and feeding him grapes—What royal treatment!
After 30 minutes, the timer sounded and we thanked each other for the time. Our connection had improved, as it always does after Special Time and later he told me, “Thank you for being such a brilliant Mum.” Today, he’s feeling much more ready for his trip away. His cold is moving on and he has fewer nerves.
But what felt really good for me to notice was that, rather than feeling depleted by ‘yet more giving,’ I felt really nourished and uplifted by our time together, reminded that far from it being a chore, Special Time is a great way to fill my own cup too.
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox:
Special Time helps you build strong connections with your child at any age. Read this article to find out why it works and how just a few minutes a day makes a difference
Read Sarah's post on why Special Time helped her son open up about his feelings
To find out how to set up Special Time in your house get this free video and checklist
Check out the new class for parents of 9 to 13-year-olds, Staying Close to Your Tween.
Certified Hand in Hand Instructor Sarah Charlton is based in the UK and holds classes in Sussex and London. Sarah runs classes for parents in groups and individuals in-person and online.
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