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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Attention!

A precious Daddy-Son (E) moment
I awoke with a large rumble in my tummy. The events of the night before were blurry; but I still remembered the frequent visits to the restroom, no thanks to the bad bout of food poisoning I had been suffering from. It was then that my consciousness was jolted by a series of undulating movements from behind. I instantly felt a warm presence enveloping me from the back. Looking down, I could barely see the two tiny hands that were hugging me. But I clearly heard the soft sweet voice, "Daddy! Daddy!" I felt better almost immediately.

These events took place just last week, during the final leg of our three-week trip to Korea. My second son E had been witnessing my pain from the night before and took it upon himself to comfort me as I awoke that morning. Just into the first 17 months of his life, we have come to know a boy who is not only sensitive, but also loving and caring to all around. There have been so many instances when E's face would reflect the deep empathy he felt towards another person who had just suffered some form of hurt. That morning was no different, and I felt so blessed experiencing that amount of love from my son.

Just a few days before, it was my older son Z who physically demonstrated his love for me. Our family was then in a department store, and I was whisked off by a salesperson to refund an item I had bought previously. I had then been concentrating on following the salesperson, and had neglected to look behind to see if my family was following. After the refund was made, I suddenly realised that I had forgotten to arrange with Sue where to meet her within the huge department store. I wandered around for the next twenty minutes looking for Sue and the kids, but could not find them anywhere. Just as I started to despair, I heard a loud crisp voice from across the aisle. "Daddy!" cried the voice; and before I knew it, I was overwhelmed by a pair of tiny hands hugging me from the front. "Daddy, I found you!" declared the voice, whom I identified as my 3/1/2-year-old son Z.
Daddy-Son (Z) walk in the forest

Our family loves holidays. There are many reasons (as described in other posts). But I will focus on a single reason this time - the singleness of attention. 

The most important thing I have learnt from this trip is that children need attention. I don't mean the constant attending to their physical needs (although that is important in and of itself). I am referring here to the emotional attention that children so desperately need. And when you are the parent of more than one child, I have learnt that you have to attend to the needs of each child separately. More than that; you need to know each child's personality - his or her needs - and purposefully attend to the child individually. It is often easier to assume that you are meeting the needs of all your children when you do things together with all of them. But if we consider that each of us is an individual with our own needs and desires, what more our children, who are young "persons-in-development", persons who are still growing physically and emotionally, and are still learning how to carve out their own sense of individuality.

We have observed that our younger son E has a "touchy-feely" type of personality. He goes around hugging us frequently, often resting his head on our shoulders when tired or sleepy. But more than that, during the trip he has also approached a number of Korean elderly women and requested for them to carry him, endearing himself to many a Korean grandmother, and receiving many little gifts as a result of his physical need for affection. I have learnt that since E is so strongly conversant in the love language of "touch", that I need to hug and kiss him frequently, in order to help him feel "loved". Before the trip I had assumed that just because he frequently seeks out friends and relatives to hug him, that I do not have to do as much hugging myself. I know now that was clearly incorrect thinking, and I have learnt that I need to hug him many times, in order for him to feel that his Daddy loves him.

On the other end of the spectrum is my older son Z. He is clearly not a tactile boy, often wriggling away from me when I try to hug him. What we have discovered, is that Z craves words of affirmation and quality time (two other love languages as articulated by Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages). There was a moment during the trip when Sue was down with food poisoning (it happened about a day before my illness). I took Z to get food for my wife while she rested with a sleeping E in the hotel room. My son was almost quivering with excitement when he learned that he would be going out with me alone. And when we walked down the small alley in the traditional Haeundae market looking for food, he was so clearly at home, running down the path and turning to look at me occasionally with a large grin on his face. He was enjoying a special time with me, time away from his younger brother - just a precious time alone with his Daddy.  

The time away has helped Sue and I to learn more about the needs of our kids, and how best to show love to them. While it seems that only three weeks have gone by, however the time away from the mundane routines of life has accentuated certain behaviours, and we have learned how to address these characteristics as well as how to relate better to our children, creating new patterns of interaction in the process. For instance we have started a new nightly ritual which involves me first bathing both the kids, and then lying on the bed to tell a Bible story with the lights out, praying for each of the children as they drift off to dreamland. While we did have the practice of telling stories to the children before the trip, however it was with the children's Bible open, and we felt then that they seemed to be distracted by the pictures. Now the two boys seem more focused as they listen to their Daddy quietly in the last few moments before bedtime.

What's interesting is that when we give our undivided attention to our children, they will in turn respond by giving us their full attention. And that is one of the priceless rewards we derive from being a parent.

Bedtime for the Boys

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear... it must be a tiring trip with the food poisonings. Are the boys well? S was asking about Z today. She missed him.

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