Vietnam Post #6 “Giving Hugs That Never Stop” — Diary of a Baba
Posted on October 8, 2019
Note: We’re halfway there… and we’re just getting started! This marks the mid point of our family sabbatical and I’m already feeling the stress of our return. I’m afraid that we will default to our old ways and habits and I’m nervous about the transition for Collin, who is just finally getting used everything here. I want to maintain this level of presence for each other.
AND yet we still have about 3 months (86 days to be exact), which is still a bit of time to grind on our goals and transition back. And like many have reminded me, 6 months is not a long time and the work (among other things) will still be there when we get back.
SO… I’m letting those lingering thoughts hang out right now. And when they creep up I just gotta soak in the moment in front of us and be grateful for having this time.
“Giving Hugs That Never Stop”
We had a beautiful 10 days in Singapore and Bali to celebrate Collin’s 5 year birthday.
Our trips have been pretty epic (and once and a lifetime-ish) but traveling with a 5 year old is a constant reminder that we are NOT re-living our 20s or even our 30s. On the other hand, we ARE spending a lot of time together and getting to know each other and our child more. This is the gift of spaciousness.
For little ones, traveling is fun and such a privilege but it also takes a bunch of endurance and stamina to endure the changes. And for awesome autistics, everything from loud sounds, extreme smells and abrupt changes can throw things off. On our part, it takes a lot of intentionality. We are always learning how to take care of each other’s needs.
On this trip, in one of the more heated tantrums and meltdowns, Collin and I were at a standstill. I don’t even remember what happened. I was tired and didn’t know what to do. Nothing I did was working but Collin could tell I was trying. Then… in a softer voice he said, “Can I have a hug? A hug that will never stop.” It was so sweet and the hug melted away the tension.
Tantrums and meltdowns on vacation (or anywhere, actually) are our greatest fears. Most of the time, it is so much about something else that is going on like dehydration, hunger, needing space, being too hot (or too cold) or just the sheer unpredictability of travel. It is all good information. I try not to take it personally but it is difficult, nonetheless.
My tendency is to (over) anticipate all this, which is a bad habit that turns into some kind of liberal coddling and co-dependency. (I’m working on it!) SO before trying to immediately “fix” the issue, I try asking him how he is feeling and what he needs. I’ve been asking him to do advanced things like to forgive himself when he makes a mistake.
But to be real, most people, including adults or especially adults I should say, don’t even know how they are feeling or what they need. And self forgiveness, what is that!? I’m remembering to be gentle to the little one and myself as we’re all still growing up in our own ways.
That morning, he kept saying, “I don’t know what will make me feel better!” “You keep asking me but I don’t know!” “I don’t know what my body wants!” (Besides watching a video, which was not going to happen.)
He had a point. So we tried something different.
I started asking him some basic questions (questions I ask myself sometimes when I feel a little off):
Are you sad?
Are you frustrated?
Are you thirsty?
Are you hungry?
Are you lonely? Or need alone time?
Are you tired?
Are you bored?
It turned out he was sad. That started to peel away at the tension. Then we co-created a checklist of things to do to when he feels sad.
Here is the list:
- Run around
- Jump around
- Play with my balloon (which entails running #1 and jumping around #2)
- Get a tight hug that never stops
- Get a hugging machine (which is similar to 4 without a human)
- Eat crunchy food
There were definitely some sensory things that could help. Mental note for next time!
1-3 were pretty much the same activity so he did that for a bit.
4 & 5 really got to me because it is true that sometimes you don’t know EXACTLY what you need but hugs (with requests and consent) are always helpful. It made me wonder how he felt to say this. Is he feeling unsettled, unsupported, misunderstood or something else?
6 made me think about how some people like to stress eat. It is probably not the healthiest option on the list but we have definitely supplied plenty of chips and other crunchy snacks when we are in a pinch.
During the trip, we went back to this list during other blowups as much as we could. For the most part it was less about the actual list but more about taking a step back from the intensity in the moment. The list gave us options in case we didn’t have certain things available, like a hugging machine (#5). Still working on that, too.
In any case, our little 5 year old is growing up and becoming very aware. We’re constantly growing with him and learning how to support his needs.
I don’t mean to apply every situation to organizing but that is what I know. Parenting is about listening, asking the right questions, listening to your own response and deciphering. That dynamic and dialectic is where you find the path forward. AND even with all with the best intentions, I know I could still be wrong!
“Parenting is about listening, asking the right questions, listening to your own response and deciphering. That dynamic and dialectic is where you find the path forward. AND even with all with the best intentions, I know I could still be wrong!”
Intentional or not, Collin is onto something. We definitely could use more hugs all around. The best hugs go both ways. In that moment when Collin hugged me back so tightly I knew it was going to be alright. He knows we were doing our best to take care of his needs. He trusts us to give him the space he needs and I see him stretching himself and growing up every day. It is truly powerful to witness.
These tiny moments are so special and they happen almost every day. Give someone special in your life a hug (that never ends). Happy birthday to our growing 5 years old. Looking forward to all the wisdom to come.
Here are some more photos from our last trip. Enjoy!