My son, who is seven (“and a HALF!” as he constantly reminds me), is hardly ever not moving. I notice this every morning when he comes upstairs to sunnily greet his groggy father and I. I am always struck at the contrast — here I am, exhausted and very unwilling to move even an inch toward getting out of bed and going downstairs, usually silently willing my husband to do it instead. And yet I watch as A remains in constant motion, walking around and around in a circle while he talks to me. Sometimes he’ll manoeuvre around to the other side of the bed to continue to circle and talk to his father, who resembles a hibernating bear in the morning, and will maybe manage a few grunts and a half-open eye. Neither of our reactions dissuade our energetic boy, he continues to circle, laugh, tell his story, get the acknowledgement from us that he was hoping for, and then disappear downstairs again to continue whatever he was doing. This need for movement, I have noticed, has nothing to do with his ability to focus. My boy is almost too good at focusing — he will sometimes have so much intense focus on what he’s doing that he literally can’t hear a word I say, even as I repeat my instructions three, four, five times. He gets this from his father. And he has never, not even as a toddler, been energetic to the point of destruction of toys, furniture, glassware, what have you. He has always just wanted to move.
When he was 17 months old and had just learned to walk, we made the mistake of taking a 12-hour road trip to the Oregon coast. The whole time he was in that car, unless it was one of the brief times that he was sleeping, he wanted OUT. He knew what walking was now, and he wanted to do THAT. I’ll never forget when we stopped for sandwiches and parked at a big open field to eat them. His father and I plunked that boy down on the field, and it was just like we had put down a fully wound wind-up toy: off he went down the field, to the very end and back again, about three times. He just wanted to MOVE. It made the Oregon coast the perfect destination, thankfully, because he had miles and miles of sandy beaches to endlessly walk, and endlessly walk he did.
And sometimes I am just struck, in those early morning walk-and-talk sessions, by how much I want to grab him and hold him and kiss him and snuggle him and just still him for a few minutes so that I can do so. That big, tousled head, that grin full of half grown-in teeth, that lanky body that looks like it’s stretching out before my eyes sometimes, those big, brown, thoughtful eyes, dancing under the weight of each new idea. I just want to hold him — to kiss that head and those soft, lightly freckled cheeks. To put my own cheek against that warm, sun-browned skin of his. And mostly I want to link eyes, look into his and tell him how much I love him. This, for me, is how I like to communicate and be communicated with — eyes locked, drinking in the gaze of another and letting them drink in my gaze, too. But whenever I try to catch him, he giggles and moves away. It becomes a game to him; he incorporates my actions into his movements, and all of a sudden he’s more slippery and wiggly than ever before, and I am lamenting the missed opportunity. But then one morning as he swirled beside me, I realized my mistake, and (with some difficulty) hauled myself out of bed. He looked at me with great curiosity as I began to move in circles alongside him, linking eyes with him, listening, smiling. At first he thought this was a game, but eventually he lit up and continued his conversation, and we linked eyes and moved a circular path together across the carpet in the pale sun of that early morning, laughing and chatting and smiling and drinking in each other’s company. I even got a little wiggly hand to hold as we walked. And that was a great moment, for both of us, I think.
I still like holding and snuggling that guy, and sometimes he will submit (briefly), even as he vibrates in my arms. But I know the way he likes to listen and be listened to, and I know I had better alter my own way of doing things to meet him where he is. My boy likes to move, and I love my boy, and so I will learn to move with him.