The other day in the midst of running typical errands, I was nearly in a head-on collision. A woman careened through the intersection making a left turn and almost hit me as I was going straight on a green light. We both slammed on our brakes and came to a screeching halt. Before I could catch my breath, she backed up and I could see the crumpled front-end of her car. Oh no!
She waved dramatically at me then pulled on around and out of the intersection, leaving me stunned in the middle of a busy intersection.
I pulled out of the way and into a parking lot to assess the damage. There was none. I was both relieved and shocked. It was such a close call, maybe an inch or two… “Did that really just happen?”
As my heartbeat thudded in my ears and I looked about for the other woman, I stood in disbelief as I realized she was long gone. Hadn’t she seen me? Shouldn’t we check on each other? Nobody else had stopped either. I didn’t have anyone to corroborate what had just happened, to validate what I had seen and heard.
– – – To be seen and heard – – –
We navigate our lives in and around people all day long, often on autopilot. How much do we REALLY see and hear about those around us?
How much are WE seen and heard?
Sometimes we have to be still ourselves to be able to tune in to others more fully. We think we’re paying attention, but we’re really not.
As I’ve tried attending a yoga class more regularly, I’m realizing how busy my brain is despite my body being in a relaxed posture. I’m learning to redirect my attention through the simple act of counting my breaths, in and out…in and out. (and starting over when I notice I’m adding something else to my grocery list!)
Slowing down allows us to take in what’s going on around us in this busy daily life of ours.
Noticing details is a way to show others we care, that we acknowledge them for what is unique about them. To act on one of these observed details takes it a step further.
It can be the little things on an ordinary day that make a big difference.
- a word of encouragement
- a smile from a stranger as you pass by on a brisk winter day
- providing an unexpected snack for your kids
- picking up your husband’s dry-cleaning to remove it from his to-do list and ease his transition home a little sooner
- sending a card to a grandma far away to remind her that she’s always being held close to her family’s heart
- flowers celebrating a special occasion – or just because
When someone does something out of their “ordinary” for us, we feel noticed. We feel loved.
I smiled the other night as I prepared a bubble bath, playfully tossing in the rubber duckies my son gave me at Christmas and unwrapping a bath bomb labeled “monkey farts” = gifts of love with a boy twist!
Some of my most treasured gifts have an underlying message of “I see you…I hear you.”
All of my guys have witnessed my journey with the Bible Quilt journal, supporting me in various ways as they see the ebb and flow of a fledgling business. They pitch in to do a quick pick-up before a home session then swiftly disappear when they sense an incoming flux of women and girls.
My youngest surprised me at Christmas with his version of a Bible Quilted dinosaur. It was his unique way of showing me “I see you; I hear you, Mom.”
Tis the season for gestures of love for our assorted valentines, but we don’t have to feel pressured to do something grand or typical.
Just be you.
Show your loved ones what YOU see and hear about them on any regular day.
“Let all that you do be done in love.”
I Corinthians 16:14
Tell Them Their Story
We all love a good story. It doesn’t matter your age. It’s even better if there are hidden gems of laughter, harrowing moments and happy endings. We just love getting lost in the detailed threads that tug at our hearts.
Our children love to hear “their stories”. They ask to hear them over and over. We laugh and gasp at all the same parts every time. And I realize that we add chapters to their stories with each day, each vacation, each experience, family event, tradition, hug and “I love you”. It’s in every ordinary and extraordinary day that we have.
Pictures and albums help with that too. The time spent in conversation is a layer of warmth for the soul that is something extra special. Face-to-face conversation is becoming less and less in our society; everyone wants the short and condensed version of events. But when you give some time to sharing, you will hear:
“Read it again, please!” and “Can you tell it again?” and then it turns into, “Remember, Mom and Dad, when I did this, and when that happened?” It’s such a rich layer to a person.
When you have many children, this helps in giving that individual their unique identity. In a group setting, you can easily speak each child’s love language by reminiscing of a fond time together. It’s so easy to add this layer to your home, but it is becoming lost in our digital agendas. Fill your child up with words that champion them; show their hearts how spectacular they are. Hand them their legacy as your family shares past generations stories too. All of these conversations combined are a treasure, not bought. The value is priceless for our hearts.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. -Philippians 1:3
My son had turned his room into a recyclable center in the course of a week. Between the door and his bed was a thin path with looming boxes, egg cartons, milk jugs, t.p.rolls galore (!), and misc. rocks, sticks, feathers, beads, etc.
I surveyed the situation “arising” and began a plan. This is how our “Inventors Station” came to be.
Rather then stifle his creative juices; I adapted to his way of thinking and set up a small desk that now houses all his “supplies”. It’s sort of like a tool bench, only better! There are nooks and crannies to stockpile bottle caps, rubber bands, clothespins, popsicle sticks and duct tape. (You must have lots of duct tape!!)
Many Robots, Crazy Hats, Boats and oddities have been created by my budding inventor.
If you’re not thrilled about giving this idea prime real estate in your home, or space does not allow it, then a box is a great compromise and is portable! Once the space allotted is full of exciting aspects, no more can be stored until the ones on hand are used for a masterpiece. (This was learned the hard way when I discovered cardboard and styrofoam popcorn being hoarded in various places!)
Giving space for creative freedoms in youth will pay big dividends down the road in the life of a child! (He says he will build me a house someday!)
Yay for Inventors!!!
Recently we had some friends over for an impromptu pizza dinner after soccer games were finished for the day. Our combo of kids resulted in an 8 boys:1 girl ratio. The solo girl told her mother on the way home, “the mom is the only girl in their house.” Oh, so very true! During her visit I enjoyed digging out some “girl stuff” from my play therapy toy stash. I invited her to play with my collection of Lego Friends I’ve received from my boys during their Legos-for-every-occasion phase that lasted persistently for years. I listened to her little girl chatter, noting the lack of crash-bang-argh sound effects that typically accompany boy play at our house. I watched as she fidgeted with her long, tousled hair as she told me stories with vibrant animation. She was enamored with our baby turtle, Pipsqueak. She had so many words and was so willing to share.
Just as our young visitor had the realization that I was the only girl in my house, I’ve been reflecting on how much I’ve become accustomed to how my sons dole out their words at a slowly measured rate as if they need to conserve their syllables to last the remainder of the day. I’ve noticed how they interact playfully with me and show affection in boyish ways that don’t require stringing all those nouns and verbs together. Much of their communication is through touch and sound.
I’ve got one boy who is my Leaner. As he’s grown taller than me, he’s developed a lean-in stance when he drapes over me for a hug. He stands very still but is so fully present that it seeps into my heart like a soft rain soaks deeply into the ground. Often he will hum softly as his breathing slows and I feel the man-child weight of him pressing onto my shoulders. He releases with a big sigh and we’re both a little more centered somehow.
Another son has developed his technique of the hold-and-squeeze. He comes in for a “typical” hug then holds me tight, waiting for an off-beat amount of precious seconds to do a double-squeeze that sometimes takes my breath away. Occasionally I’ll get a few mini-squeezes in before he loosens his hold on me. I can sense the melody of his mood in how he prolongs the hug or stays only for a brief skirmish. Sometimes we’ll finalize with a rhythmic tap-tap of our fingers, drumming onto each other’s backs without saying a word–yet also saying so much. This seems like a foreshadowing of the letting-go process we face when he leaves for college in a heartbeat.
My last one I can still tuck under my chin when he dives all-in, often leading with his head and wrapping around me with all of his limbs. I often wonder how many limbs he has because they are EVERYwhere! A lot of swaying and giggles accompany this hugfest, especially if he gets a firm headrub or backscratch out of the deal. He lingers longer if a variety of wiggly movement is sustained in this light-hearted encounter, reminding me that his primary Love Language is Physical Touch. Squirmy love is his forte; I have adapted my reflexes accordingly.
So, yes, I am the only girl in this house, but I’ve learned to communicate “boyspeak” as I’ve grown along with them. They can out-talk me about sports, outrun me in 5k races, and definitely out-eat me at any given meal…yet they can’t outgrow the mommy-son bonds weaved ever so tightly during all these leaning, squeezing, squirmy moments.
“Behold, children are a gift from the Lord… His reward.” Psalm 127:3
“Mother’s day” has passed yet each of us mommas can harvest these little snatches of our child’s affection however they may come. It may be braiding your daughter’s hair for the umpteenth time or gritting your teeth through those first driving lessons. A wink, a nudge, a crayon drawing, a morning grunt or an after-school story…cherish these tokens of your child’s unique interaction with you. We’ve got 50 weeks until the next round of “direct” appreciation the card-makers will remind everyone about. In the meantime, soak up the ordinary love today, my friends.
When your kids are little, they are all over you. Literally. A human jungle gym…they climb, writhe, wriggle and squirm all over, covering you with earthy hugs and sticky kisses. They share every single teeny tiny detail of their days even though you were right there navigating it all. They start conversations voluntarily with you.all.the.time.
I remember one of my preschool-aged sons asking me, “Mommy, do you like khaki socks? I like khaki socks.” I responded to his random question and he fired off another one without skipping a beat, “Mommy, do you like blue socks? I like blue socks.” I will spare you the details of this lengthy conversation and remain grateful that he didn’t have full knowledge of a 64-color crayola box at that tender age. Yet I hold dear the memory of that conversation because he was trying to connect with me, exploring things we might both like that mashed us together in his little mind. He wanted us to share every daily experience and talk about it over and over and over again.
When kids start school, all that sharing is spread out among more people…teachers, buddies, and neighborhood friends. You still get a good dose of after-school details, though, and you get conversation starters cued by art projects and smiley-face stamped papers they bring home.
Then your kids have the audacity to grow more. All of a sudden mini-adults are sparking out of them as they navigate the world of middle school and high school. Their minds are extremely busy places and they are doing a lot of internal processing. All of this chaotic brain activity shorts out their verbal processing and those sweet little childish conversations become more like staccato grunts and groans. I have boys, so plenty of bodily noises accompany their one or two-word responses. Although I’ve become quite adept at reading facial expressions and body postures, my mommy-brain is still curious about their experiences in those busy school hallways and classrooms. I still like to hear in their own words what impacted them in the course of an ordinary day.
I’ve embraced the subtle strategy of the Side-by-Side conversation. Most often this occurs in the car as we are driving to an activity or returning home. After an initial greeting and brief run-down of “how was your day?” type conversation, a natural lull fills the car. I try to wait patiently while my son decompresses in his own way. Sometimes it’s through music; sometimes it’s a snack. Gradually some wordy tidbits start to fall out. I try to not scoop them up too hastily, but allow them to linger between us…because sometimes those few phrases turn into an avalanche of words. Suddenly I’m hearing a funny story about a new friend or how a teacher brings day-old bakery goodies to class, endearing him to this mass of hungry adolescents.
During this season of March Madness, I join my son on the couch and absorb a litany of sports statistics of his favorite teams. I’ve learned to ask specific questions about a few key players so I have a storyline to follow-up on each game. Sitting side-by-side, my son overlooks my lack of “fervor” at his level and seems to appreciate my tentative participation in his world of sports. We are training together in this new language of ours, connecting through the excitement of buzzer beaters, the disappointments of tough losses, and the shared eye-rolling at inane remarks offered by the color commentator.
These side-by-side moments are indirect and nonthreatening. With our eyes focused ahead on the road or a basketball game, our bodies are little more relaxed and the words come out a little more freely. We are aligned in a mutual activity. Somewhere in the midst of the drive or the time-outs in the game, I pick up nuggets about social interactions that would not have been shared directly in a face-to-face Q & A. I savor these and add them to my mommy collection of these brief moments that weave into the fabric of their childhood.
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19
I’ve learned that by coming alongside my boys in whatever they are doing or simply making myself present in their spaces, that something beautiful begins to unfold. A few words are batted between us. Sometimes I lob them too far and they miss their target entirely. Sometimes I come too close and they are returned with a solid shot. Timing is delicate. We tiptoe around, exploring neutral territory or trying a humorous diversion. Awkward moments are all too frequent, but we keep trying, side-by-side, because there’s a lot more than khaki socks out there, folks…but at least it’s a place to start.