The Gift of Being Seen and Heard

Mommy, did you see me?” my nine year old daughter asked expectantly as she ran up the stairs after her gymnastics class. She has been working hard on perfecting her back walk-over and wanted to know if I saw that today she had finally nailed it. Thankfully, I had.

I gave her a big high five and hug as we walked out of the gym. I told her the specific things I noticed she had improved on since the week before and I could see her face light up.

As I talked to her later, I heard her express again how happy she was to know that I was paying attention . She wanted me to watch her – to notice her improvements and yes, even her errors.

Vying for Mommy’s Attention

When you have four kids like I do, it’s hard to give large amounts of one on one time to every child every day. There is a lot of group playing, group reading, group eating, group learning.

But there are little moments every single day that an individual child will want to me read them a book, listen to them play a song, talk about something that’s on their mind, or look at their newest Lego creation while they explain all the special aspects to their building project.

And these are moments I’ve noticed are pretty important to them. For instance, it’s not ok with them if they want to show me their cartwheel and I’m texting someone while saying I’m watching. It’s not ok with them if they want to play me their newest song on the piano and I say “I’ll listen from the kitchen while I put the dishes away.”

We moms are multi-tasking experts, but kids don’t like to be multi-tasked.

And here’s the truth: It’s really not that hard for me. To put down the phone and give my full attention to her cartwheel. To put the dishes on hold for five minutes and give my full attention to her new song with a standing ovation at the end.

Many times though, can I be honest? I just want to finish the text message. Get the dishes done. Finish folding the laundry. I don’t want to be diverted or distracted from the task at hand.

But guess what? My kids aren’t distractions. Text messages and emails can be. Social media can be. Searching for recipes to try out with my new Instant Pot I got for Christmas can be. But my kids – they aren’t distractions. They are my kids. And I want them to know that, without a doubt, they are more important than my ongoing, never-ending to-do list.

Give Your Kids This Simple Gift

Our kids are smart. They know what’s really important to us based on where they see us give our time, energy, attention, and affection. And there will certainly be many times when we have to say, “Honey, I need to take this call. I’ll look at your project in a few minutes” or “Honey, I need to make this meal right now because company is coming in 30 minutes” and that’s ok too, because it’s also important that they know that they are not the only important person in our lives.

But I don’t think those times will bother them that much when they know that we see and hear them. When they know we care about what’s important to them. When they know that they have our hearts.

In a culture that feeds off distractions like Garfield feeds on lasagna, dare to do something wild and crazy and totally counter-cultural. When its at all possible, dare to give your kids your undivided attention when they ask for it (and even when they don’t ask, but you can tell it’s important to them) and see what beautiful relational fruit will bloom from the seeds of your focus and attentiveness, planted in their hearts.

Watch how they respond when you comment on their outfit (or their dolls outfit, for that matter). Watch how they respond when they hand you a picture they drew for you and you tell them your favorite parts of it: “I really like how you made the horse red instead of brown – how creative!”

It’s a simple gift, really. The gift of being seen. The gift of being heard. And it’s a gift that will keep on giving, too. Because when we take the care to really see and really listen to our kids, we are training our kids to be people who hear and see other people. And that is something our world needs more of, without a doubt.

  • Pat
    Posted at 03:36h, 07 January Reply

    Great post, Laura! When I started teaching school, my first principal did exactly what you suggest. He always dropped his desk work, turned his chair 90 degrees, and gave his full attention. I still remember that decades later!

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