I tease my nephew all the time. That is how I show my affection. I think he understands that.
Whenever I am free, you could find me doing any (or all) of the following: catching hold of him when he passes me by and not letting go of him, forcing him to plant kisses on my cheek and letting go only when he says he loves me; threatening him that I am going to bite and pinch him when he is sitting by himself, reading quietly; repeating whatever he speaks without giving him a break; pretending to mishear everything he says. And the most fun of all—tickling him a lot.
All of this excites him. He laughs and plays along.
And all of this tires my mother out—especially the tickling while having a playful fight. Ninety-nine times out of ten, her worries are unfounded. But on rare occasions, my nephew ends up getting too excited and runs around the house flailing about. Or veers too close to the edge of a furniture.
My main focus when I tease him, is to stop short of this ‘ultra-energy mode’ getting activated. I am successful in doing that most of the times. But sometimes it backfires. He either keeps going on even after the fun is over or hits me back a little too hard or doesn’t stop. Unfortunately for him—in keeping with the theme of childhood—he doesn’t get to decide when the ‘fun is over’. I do, the adult (just making sure you who the adult is).
Due to all of the above, it has come to seem like we are always in ‘opposite camps’. And he has gotten used to this idea of me as an ‘opponent’, for all of his eight years. But sometimes (often, now), I crave for tenderness between us—where we could just sit calmly and talking about the new book he is reading or the new thing he is learning. He doesn’t know how to engage with me if not for monkeying around… and it seems like I don’t either.
To have a ‘normal’ relationship, my mother insists that I should not tease him. Now—he is the only child in the house and gets love/attention from all the adults (and gets to have his way more often than he doesn’t get to have his way). I am not interested in being overindulgent with him. But I don’t think the ‘price to pay’ then is to have a distant relationship.
I think the teasing can (must?) continue, but what I do need to do—is make more time for him. Sit with him, patiently, doing the things he wants to do, the way he wants to do them. I have spent a lot of time with him when he was younger, but I haven't done enough of that, this time we are together; I have been very protective of my time.
Last night, I tried to snuggle with him as he got into bed. And he kept pushing me away forcefully; he cried and yelped that I be gone. He was sleepy and not in a mood. It hurt me a little. He doesn’t know fully well that 'Chummi' can also feel bad. When I told him in the morning that my feelings were hurt because he shoved me away when I was being loving, he looked on perplexed. And he said ‘sorry’ with a great deal of difficulty… and as I began to smile, he immediately stuck his tongue out and dashed away.
If the old trick to buy a kid’s love is sugar, the oldest trick might be patience. I need to spend more time with him. Ergo, I need more patience.
Also, who gave children so much power?