Apart from them, the value I bring as a parent to them?
It feels detached. Hopeful it will make an impact, yes. But still detached. It treats them like they are all the same person, when the reality is the opposite. It’s me rushing what I shouldn’t, trying to be the “super-parent” I can’t.
So how do we, as parents, avoid that?
The answer is found in their originality.
Walk with me for a minute and I will show you what I mean…
Ella will rest her head on my shoulder. And it doesn’t even matter if her friends are around. I know that day may come. But for now, she’s still my little girl. She’ll stand next to me resting her head on my shoulder. As our family is watching a TV show, or I’m working on my laptop she’ll sit next to me and do the same. I’m still trying to figure out how to make time freeze so she doesn’t get any older. If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know how it’s done. She’s my little girl…that’s not so little anymore.
Oscar’s is found in one statement. It’s always delivered with the same beautiful mixture of hope and confidence. “Dad…Are we doing anything in PAR-tick-ular today?” You have to hear it to completely appreciate the Oscarism in its tone and delivery. The pride that comes from laying down such a grown up word with such precision and power. Like the last piece of a puzzle snapping into place at it leaves your fingers. That sense of confident completion.
Sawyer. You’ll need track shoes, a video camera, a translator and kleenex. He’s always on the go, you need to see it all to believe it, sometimes help understanding it, and something to wipe the tears from your eyes. From the funniest to the sweetest, he will make your eyes leak like a faucet with a worn out washer. And then it comes out of nowhere. “Daddy, will you snuggle with me?” “Daddy, will you sit next to me on the couch?” “Daddy, will you play Disney Infinity with me”. With him. Next to him. Close to him.
Each of them have them. And I noticed something as I was thinking about them that was the same.
They don’t come with fanfare and announcement. Rather, quiet curiosity and hopefulness. That their daddy will pick up on it, so he will dial in to them. So he will slow down long enough to take in a moment that is far more than the surface of its presence.
The head on my shoulder, curious question, and snuggle all require the same thing, and provide the only opening to what’s worth even more.
My attention for their heart. And the conversations that follow that connect our hearts to one another.
I can’t demand their attention and expect them to open up to me. I can’t tell them to “look me in the eye when I’m speaking to you”, flippantly throw out the “how was your day?” at dinner, or expect a deep display of emotion about how profound their day was just because I’m tucking them in at night’s end.
Can it come out during those times? Sometimes. But it’s rare. And has way more to do with the fact that they are being kind to me even though I haven’t picked up on what matters most to them.
It’s when I pick up what they are laying down that I see it, hear it and experience it for sure.
Head on shoulder, curious question, snuggled close.
Each one a little different than another, yet so similar.
Each one putting out their heart’s hand, hoping their daddy will see it’s there to be held.
So I pay more attention than I used to.
I get excited that even though she’s almost a teenager she’ll still lay her head on my shoulder…even in front of her friends. I get excited that he wants his day and my day to share something “PAR-tick-ular” in common. And I get excited that for as busy a schedule he has conquering the world at the ripe old age of four, he slows down long enough to let me in to his world…to snuggle.
Your kids have them too.
Parenting isn’t always about knowing what to say.
Sometimes, it’s knowing how to see.
And that’s when we’ll hear who they are and who they are becoming.
A gift that once unwrapped will reveal…
A parent’s greatest joy.