A few days before the new year, I read a book that taught me a lesson--and then watched a movie that confirmed it.
For Christmas, Jeff had given me a book I asked for: The Plain Choice by Sherry Gore. Sherry writes about her life and some of the difficulties she faced growing up as well as her eventual decision to join the Amish. It's a very interesting book, but what stood out to me the most is that as a young person, she felt unseen by her family. She made wrong choices at times just to get their attention because she felt so strongly that they just didn't see her.
"Aha," I thought. "It is so important that each of my children realizes that I see--really take notice of--him or her."
And then, on December 30, we were able to take a very fun trip to Pennsylvania to go to Sight & Sound Theater (which really deserves its own blog post); but on the way home, to pass the time on the long drive, we watched Cheaper by the Dozen, the version with Steve Martin. There are a lot of positives about that movie and some negatives, too, of course; but again, what stood out to me is how one of the boys in the family felt unseen. His dad even kept calling him the wrong name (I do that sometimes, and I only have six children, not twelve!). I wanted to tell the parents in the movie, "Stop! Slow down! Really look at your son and SEE him!"
Well, wouldn't you know, I couldn't say anything to them that would change the movie. ;-) But I CAN change how I mother my children, and this principle has become, I believe, the first big lesson I've learned in 2016.
With having a larger than average family, I need to work a little harder to make sure that each of my children is seen...and what's more, that each of them FEELS seen. I'm determined to do what I can to make sure that happens.
I was thinking about all of this on Wednesday of this week and decided to write down something about each of my kids that particularly stood out to me on that day. Wanna see what I came up with? :)
Josiah - It does something funny to a mother's heart when her son comes home from a shopping trip with his dad, carrying his first real suit. At least, that's what happened to me on this day. My first little boy is becoming a man; and now that he's getting ready to participate in a speech competition, he was required to have a suit to wear for that. I was so grateful that Jeff wanted to be the one to go with him to shop for it--let's give a cheer for involved dads! :) Josiah has grown so much in ability and confidence during this past year, and his suit is just an outward sign of the maturation I see in his soul.
David - My second-born son has become very proficient with computers and various other forms of technology; and for his Google account, he wanted a picture of himself to replace the generic "D" icon that Google gave him. He had asked me previously for help; but on this day, I actually felt like I had some spare time to devote to this (not that it really took that long, but some days it's hard to find even 30 seconds of "free" time!). ;-) "Here, David, come to the window and I'll take your picture and then show you how to use it for your Google account," I said to him. So he did, and I did.
Tobin - I walked into my room mid-morning on Wednesday and found Tobin curled up under the covers of my bed. It's a cozy spot, for sure, but not one that he normally occupies at that time of day! ;-) "Tobin, what's wrong?" I asked, slightly alarmed. "Are you not feeling well?" He told me that he was alright but that he had gotten frustrated because Shav kept beating him in a computer game so rather than lashing out, he decided to go away and have some time alone. What a wise thing to do! It takes a great deal of maturity to know when one is in danger of losing control and deciding before that to disengage from the conflict. I was so proud of how he handled that situation!
Shav - Not just on Wednesday but on many days recently I have noticed how Shav, although the youngest of the four big boys, is capable and determined and plucky enough to hang with his big brothers. They've been playing Ticket to Ride (and Jeff has played it with them some recently); and although Shav hasn't ever won that game, he knows how to play, enjoys playing, and almost always keeps a good attitude, even when he loses. On Wednesday afternoon, he played Castle Risk with his big brothers; and he was the first one out. But did he grumble and complain and pout? He did not. He gets high marks in my book for, not only knowing how to play these games that involve long-term planning and strategy and having the attention span to complete such a game, but also doing so for the enjoyment of participating with his big brothers...even if he doesn't win. (And one of these days, he'll start winning!)
Moriah - I sat down on the couch Wednesday morning and told Moriah I could read to her if she would pick out some books, so she very happily did so and returned from the bookshelf with, among other things, three books from the Thomas the Tank Engine series. If you're familiar with Thomas and the other trains, you'll know that they have faces that express different emotions; and Moriah, being very quick to pick up on the emotions around her, kept pointing to all the faces that looked sad or puzzled or scared or angry and asking, "Why is he sad?" We would then talk about the reason for that expression--maybe the trees in the forest fell down because of the big wind, or maybe that particular train was being sent to have repairs done, or whatever the case may be--and then we'd go on to the next one, and again the question, "Why is he sad?" But I was reminded of how good Moriah is at sensing emotions--and not only sensing them, but also wanting to know why a negative emotion is occurring so something can be done about it. Even if it's just the "emotion" of a toy train. :)
Benjamin - Babies are funny. Sometimes you think they're not doing much changing from day to day and they'll NEVER hit whatever particular milestone you're waiting on; and other times you feel like every time you blink, they do something different! Well, one thing I've noticed about Benjamin recently is that he has learned to arch his back slightly when he knows I'm going to pick him up, anticipating the movement that his body will soon make. If he's in the swing, for example, or the bouncy seat, and I lean over him; he gets his body going in motion, leaving room for my hands to slip behind his back when he arches it so I can pick him up more easily. The fact that, at only four months of age, he knows me well enough to guess pretty accurately what I'm about to do and then physically anticipate that with his body is amazing and endearing. :)
I hope, as I go on to other lessons this year, I won't forget this one.