Don’t look into a child’s eyes unless you are ready to reflect back their greatness, delightfulness, potential…
I have been so burdened, wrapped up, distracted last week that I don’t remember slowing down enough to enjoy and delight in my kids’ presence. I have corrected them plenty and scolded them some. On Tuesday I dropped Ivy off to kindergarten, and for the first time in months she cried that she didn’t want to stay. She wanted to come spend the day with me. Impossible. I didn’t have the energy or the attention span to give to her, while coordinating the home interior finishes. Often times I find myself talking on the phone with a contractor or delivery guy while I need to answer another call on conrad’s phone. I had also been irritated with repetitive delays for jobs that could have been solved within an hour. They were just put off.
That night when Ivy was restless at bedtime and couldn’t fall asleep, she asked for me to come and snuggle.
We parents are so afraid we will set a precedent and they will always expect long stories, endless snuggles. Well, for me at least this has been the case. They push just the right buttons and tie me tight with just the right strings.
On this particular Tuesday night I felt the nudge to go and snuggle to fill her cup to the brim. I had enough energy to give generously. So She fell asleep hugging me tight, breathing on my forehead with her cute face. Then I went over and snuggled with Jackie too. We need to always give evenly. They both fell asleep within minutes. And both woke up refreshed with good attitudes and Ivy had her courage bucket refilled. She braved her day with confidence.
As I’ve been more stressed and occupied I made less consistent warm eye contact with my girls. Life was just too busy these days. The problem is that, the little eye contact I made, I was angry. And I reaped the fruit of my poor investment. They felt disconnected and acted accordingly.
A few days of course correcting did the trick. Being intentional about looking into their eyes while smiling sincerely takes commitment at first. Then it comes easy.
Today at church I was looking at my snuggling girl and she was smiling back at me. It made me teary. Joyfully so. Then she whispered: “I can see myself in your eyes!” While I know what she meant, how deep was her observation! She sees herself in my eyes and through my eyes. She is so goofy yet reserved. She is a beauty with piercing eyes and expressive face. She clings onto me with amazing force. Literally sometimes. While Jackie is exploring her independence. They both love to hear stories of old, and any lessons I have the energy to impart.
I am done with guilt. As a parent I started second-guessing or worrying about so much. There was this saying that “it is better to err and correct than to have never erred at all.” I have so much to correct it feels I never can cover all my basis. Much slips through the cracks and on the other hand I’m afraid I overdo-it.
My mom tells recollects stories from her young parenting. She always found it confusing when parents would overreact to what their kids did, and then immediately would take it back or try to mend it. She saw how inconsistency created chaos. So her approach was commitment to consistency. She wouldn’t go back on her word out of fear or guilt. Her plan was to Just do better next time with her reaction or correction. She was also very confident to apologize sincerely and with ease if she was wrong.
She remembers the pangs of pain she felt when she slapped my brother’s hand as he lost on lottery tickets a second round of money from her. He was so startled and ashamed. And she felt so guilty. And they each nursed their pain alone. She wanted to go hug him to make it all better but she was afraid that the message would have been too confusing or washed over. My brother had time to think it over and she still remembers the incident. Needless to say, my brother is one of the most honest men I know.
We as parents are often too afraid to sit with discomfort or let our kids sit with pain. It’s so tempting to solve it for them. Or take it back. But that robs them of the confidence that they are strong enough to sort through the emotions.
Anyway, I plan to make more smiling eye contact with my kids. And have less lightnings bolts shooting out of my eyes. I plan to be consistent in my attitude and shared beliefs, and repair wisely. Out kids are resilient. I need to remember that. And It’s ok to be out of sight to take care of serious business and then when we come together be warm and fully present. Less guilt. More joy.