Photo by: Shutterstock

Finding Sydney's Heart

Photo by: Shutterstock

I guess you could say I am an affectionate mom.

My kids and I are very physical and verbal with our love. We say ‘I love you’ a lot. I didn’t think I would be this way; I definitely didn’t grow up like that. So I probably overdo it a bit. It’s very lucky for me that my kids suck it up because it can be slightly weird.

They aren’t babies anymore, and usually kids this age start to push mommy away, right? At least that’s what I keep hearing. Thank God, no one told them.

Summer’s an official teenager now. Thirteen! Yikes. And she’s almost as tall as I am. Thirteen-year-olds are so not into ‘mommy time’ and snuggles, right? Wrong! At least a couple of nights a week, you’ll find us snuggled in my big bed, pushing my poor hubby to the couch. Heads together, hands intertwined while watching a movie or browsing YouTube until we fall asleep, her head on my shoulder. She loves it. I live for it.

My son DJ is the most romantic ten-year-old ever. Seriously, he’s going to make some lucky girl’s day, every day. At an age when most boys wouldn’t be caught dead giving their mom a kiss in front of their class, he holds my face when he kisses me at the school bus stop, and looks me dead in the eye when he says, ‘Have a good day, Mommy. I’ll be back soon.” It’s like he’s going off to fight is some war; every day he is that intense.

Spike, I admit, may border on obsessive. Every day when he wakes up, he says, “Mommy, you’re here!” as if he’s afraid I disappeared the night before. For a child on the spectrum, showing affection isn’t common, but with me, Spike is different. He actually offers hugs and kisses rather than grudgingly accepting them. While I love how he expresses his love, it can almost be suffocating. Sometimes, I feel like he wants back in the womb!

Every day and night, in all of these loving rituals, one child is missing: Sydney.

She’s just not that into me.

I think I only noticed it about six months ago. That’s terrible, right? But once I did, I realized she’s always been a bit…let’s call it…hmm… reserved. Recently, someone bought her a gift and I had to practically push her to hug them. Or rather, let them hug her. She looked trapped, and could not wait to escape.

When the kids come off the bus and I hug and kiss them, she kind of stands there and looks slightly pained, as if she is trying to do me a favor. If someone says ‘I love you’ to her out of the blue or unprovoked, she stammers out, “Okay."

So after she said that to me for millionth time, I said, “But Syd, I said I love you. What do you say?" “Umm…thank you?"

I think she’s always been this way. And I went on a mission to find out why. First, I tried to analyze where I went wrong. I cuddled, I hugged, I breastfed until she self-weaned; I just couldn’t figure out where I failed. Then I got some great advice from my dad. “Man, Syd ain’t about that life.” (That was his actual answer!) After awhile, I figured I’d just have to deal with it.

Then one day while I was cleaning out the kids’ old art projects to get ready for the millions of handprint turkeys and stick figure drawings sure to take over my house, I came across Sydney’s big red Valentines heart with Cheerios glued on it, from preschool. It said, “Sydney loves Mommy” in her crooked and backward-lettered handwriting. I also found a construction paper candy cane that said, “I love U Mom.” Tears sprung to my eyes.

I wanna dance a victory dance. See, she does like me! Maybe I’m onto something…

So, I walked – okay, maybe I ran – to our overcrowded refrigerator/art gallery. In the clutter of DJ’s superheroes and aliens, Summer’s watercolor sunsets and Spike’s weird, egg-shaped guy he repeatedly draws, I suddenly noticed that all of Sydney’s pictures have a theme: ME!

We are on the swings together, we are at the park together, we are being chased by a rabbit. (I’m not even gonna ask about that one!) And she writes notes on them: “I love Mom,” “Sydney and Mom,” “Sydney loves Mom.” So, of course, I am now relieved and overjoyed.

This also reminds me of a lesson I thought I had already learned. Everybody doesn’t express love the same. I know I can’t expect Syd to love me the way Summer does, or Spike does, or even the way I love her. I will love her in my way, and be forever grateful that she loves me in hers. And if I’m ever in doubt, I always have that red, Cheerios heart.

Shavon Brown-Robinson is a contradiction. She is a cursing, swearing, god-loving,ballet dancing, hip-hop bopping, Anais Nin reading, reality TV addicted, tattooed, Prada and Puma wearing, PTA mom of four amazing, insane kids and devoted wife to an infinitely patient husband. Read more at I Just Want to Be Superwoman.

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