Parents: How often do you stop and really look at your child?
“What do you mean?” I hear you ask. “I’m looking at them ALL THE TIME. Gotta. They’d shave the cat with a Brillo pad, spray paint the dog bright pink, and completely disassemble the DVD player in a few minutes if I didn’t.”
One of the big problems with being a parent is that far too often we — myself included — get stuck deep into our, “parenting mode”, and although we’re looking AT our children, we’re not really looking at them. We’re actually looking past them — we’re watching their behavior, checking for signs of distress, eyeing out potential hazards, or trying desperately to stay one step ahead of their crafty little minds and anticipate what next thing they will find amusing that you certainly will not.
Other times, when we know are kids are in a safe place, we have a tendency to tune them out. How many times have you said, “That’s wonderful, dear,” as you glaze off at the TV program you’re watching and Junior is trying to show you his crayon drawing for the 14th time? Guilty! And hey, I get it; kids can’t — and shouldn’t — get 100% of our concentration 100% of the time. They’ll manage and survive fine if we don’t coo wildly over every single thing they do or jump to their every whim.
The problem comes when we fail to come back out of our parenting or zone-out mode and recognize what is truly in front of us — and how amazing, wonderful, and unique it is. And what a privilege we have been given at getting to be so involved in it.
Keston was playing on my lap the other night and he was in a mood to be a bit snuggly and close so we were sitting face-to-face as he talked to me and played with my face and beard. At first I found myself gazing past him as I talked to my wife and checked out the TV and so forth, and then suddenly, I stopped.
My eyes — and more importantly, my mind — switched focus to concentrate on him. Looking deep into those eyes like I used to all the time when he was first born, noting the expressions and thoughts behind those liquid windows. He was suddenly quiet and gazed right back at me, a curious expression on his face as he tried to figure out what I was doing. My eyes played over the delicate features of his face, eyelashes, cheeks, nose, noting all the while the perfection and beauty in each of them. All at the same time, feeling and allowing myself to recognize and savor the emotions of connection and happiness and protectiveness and pride that swelled up inside of me when I really stopped to look.
The cliché about kids growing up too fast is all too real, raw, and frightening once you become a parent. He’s only three and already I look back on pictures from his earlier years and go, “Was he THAT small? He looked like THAT!? I don’t remember!” I don’t want to be one of those parents that suddenly gets a clearing of their vision about the time their child turns 14 and goes, “Who are you, where did you come from, and are you going to do your laundry anytime soon??”
So, I’m going to try my hardest to stop and look more. To savor what I can and capture as much as I am able. To parent when I must, but to avoid the trap of familiarity. To really look.
I hope I never fail to see him.