Thursday, November 15, 2012

... by the light...

One of my big challenges as a parent is that of staying "present" when dealing with the girls. It's not that I want to avoid them or what they're doing, but I often notice after the fact that I've missed something that seems important, even if relatively small, due to allowing myself to be distracted while talking with them.

earlier morning walk

It's far too easy to give the girls just some of my attention, rather than all of it, when they're asking me a question or telling me about some small moment in their day. They say something that seems insignificant, that sounds like a passing comment, and hours later it'll strike me that it was something significant, at least to them, and I ought to have paid a little more attention, given them a bit more interest, concern, or simply joy.

K: Daddy, do you like my costume?
me (distracted with… almost anything): Yeah, I do.
K: I think the kids are going to laugh at me.
me (still distracted): No, no one is going to laugh.

And later I realize that she was looking for some reassurance, and while I gave it to her, it was perfunctory, and I hadn't really been there "with" her during our conversation.


L: Daddy, guess what?!
me (stirring spaghetti): Hmmm? What?
L: In class today I had to do the calendar twice!
me (remembering): Oh yeah, you were snack master. How was that?
L: Fine. But I had to do the calendar twice!
me: Really?
L: Yeah!!
me: Can you tell your sister dinner is ready?
L (yelling): K, dinner is ready. Daddy?
me (serving up pasta now): Yeah, do you want water with dinner?
L: Daddy?
me: Here, sit down.
L: Daddy?
me: Yeah, L?
L: I had to do the calendar twice….
me: Right. K! Dinner!

From the grownup perspective, the things they want to tell us, the stories they need to share, are small things. But in other senses they are huge.

For a child, nearly everything is new, their worlds are expanding with each experience, whether it's a face plant into a muddy puddle (like K did this last weekend while I was at work and M took the girls to the aquarium) or a classmate peeing in his pants during calendar (as happened when L's was snack master and doing the calendar so she had to restart calendar after things were settled), it's all part of what they're taking in and experiencing, and they want to talk about it. And if they can't talk about it with us, who can they talk about it with?

Weekend before last, we had a candlelight dinner after a chilly afternoon of hail and icy winds and family movie "night" (watching The AristoCats which was one of our more successful choices) and as we ate I realized that there were moments worth noting, even if they were simply questions like, "How many more bites of chili do I have to take before I get a piece of candy?" :

L, with chili
(and candles)

I have this theory that if I can be here while they're learning about being little girls and making friends and being snack master, listening in ways that lets them know I think what they have to say is important, then maybe they'll continue to share their stories and experiences with me when they're older, and they're busy learning about heartaches and love and successes and failures and are starting to stretch their wings and fly a bit….

I really would love to share a tiny bit of that with them.


Bev said...

Hey, about the "not really listening"... good for you for noticing it in yourself and know that it's never too late to correct it. You can always go back the next day and ask "tell me again about doing the calendar twice?" You get a second chance. That's the good news. :)

Anonymous said...

I love this lesson. thanks for the reminder as I'm sure it can be applied to marriage as well.