After my last post, one of my loyal readers gave me a great piece of advice. I wrote about how our oldest son, Josh, is jealous of the attention given to his youngest brother. Vicky told me to try giving him responsibility, investing in his status as the oldest as a way of making him feel important.
I tried that the other day, and it actually worked!
The youngest boy was napping, the middle boy was next door with his best friend, and Josh was moping around the house asking if I would turn on the television. I told him he needed to earn the TV by helping me in the backyard. I said he's big enough, mature enough and strong enough, and I could really use his help. I've been working on chopping, splitting and stacking the massive tree that toppled, and it's the truth – I really could use his help.
So he followed me outside and we got to work. I cut with the chainsaw and split with the maul, while he filled the wheelbarrow and stacked the wood. We spent 30 to 40 minutes doing this, and I repeatedly praised him for the effort. He even seemed happy.
With the sun setting, we packed up the operation for the day, went inside, and I thanked him for being such a great helper. Then I turned on the TV for him.
I knew it had been a successful effort, but I didn't realize how successful until later that night. To set the scene, I need to rewind a little bit. Josh is 7, and for every day of his life, Mom has been #1. Josh and I have never been as close as Josh and Mom. Matthew is my little shadow, but Josh is often my adversary.
Well, on this night, Josh said something I haven't heard in ... well, I can't remember ever hearing it before. We were joking around as a family, Matthew was singing the K-I-S-S-I-N-G song and kissing his mother on the cheek, and Josh said, "I love my Daddy." I stayed calm, but my heart leaped inside. I took a moment to tell everyone what a great helper Josh had been, and at bedtime I gave Josh an extra long 'thank you' and 'I-love-you' tuck-in.
As I look back, I realize this is just a small moment. If I want to be close to Josh when he's 16, I'll need a lot more bonding between now and then. But this is a good start, and it's nice to know my son loves me. Thanks, Vicky.