I recently had the opportunity to spend two full uninterrupted days with my nine year old Carter--just the two of us. Originally we planned for Carter, Madeleine and me to have a weekend away somewhere together, but at the last minute Madeleine opted out in search of tweenage bliss with her good friend Isabel. That left Carter and I alone in the car for five plus hours on our way to New York City where we would spend the next two days wandering the streets, seeing the sites and getting to know each other in a brand new way.
I've always been very tuned into my kids, so I wasn't expecting any big surprises. Carter is an easy kid to be with in general and has for the longest time been excellent company. Still, 48 hours completely alone with anyone and you'll learn something new.
Here's the shortlist of observations (some new, some old) from our time together this weekend:
1. Carter is way more sensitive than I realized. He needs a super safe environment free of sarcasm and harsh tones before he can really start to unwind and relax.
2. Carter is super affectionate and needs more chances to demonstrate his emotions, especially the super loving, positive ones.
3. Carter is a chatterbox. For a kid who is notorious for his introversion, Carter could not shut up on our ride up. I think he told me at least fifty well-memorized jokes.
4. Carter needs long stretches of silence and downtime. We were able to find this best on long walks around the city with nothing to do, nowhere to go.
5. Carter is on a secret campaign to feel less all around, since his big emotions feel so overwhelming to him. This taps down his joy as well as his sadness. He needs even more support to let his big emotions out, so his not so healthy no-feel strategy can come to an end.
6. Carter actually enjoys the limelight. He was thrilled to be a little outrageous in his new shades (see photo above) and happily basked when complimented on his style by the tour guides at the New York Water Taxi.
7. Carter did well to be on his own, away from his uber-confident sister, to have his own chance to try on his own brand of confidence. The shades definitely helped.
I was so thankful for these two days to really focus on Carter, have unstructured time with him and tune in to his inner world. I have some data now as a parent that I desperately needed to be able to meet Carter's needs in more intentional ways.
How about you? Have you noticed something new about your kids this week? Something about the way they are, what they need or how you'd be better off to change your tact a little?
Tell us what you're observing and learning in the comments below.