Do you remember that Eric Carle book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? I’m assuming that if you have kids, or have ever been a kid, that you have read it. If not,I hate to ruin it for you, but basically, after all of the animals say what they see, it turns out, that they actually saw something entirely different.
Sometimes when I look at my kids, I see fatigue. I just look at them and get tired. Not just tired, fatigued. Exhausted.
Sometimes, when I listen to my kids, I hear about wizards, and wands, and potions (my daughter is like 10 years late to the Harry Potter party) and I just want it to stop, because I’m tired, and most of what she is saying I’m having a hard time making any sense of. One time she got mad, legitimately mad, that I wouldn’t teach her how to fly a broomstick. I really wanted to be able to do that for her, but just couldn’t, and she didn’t understand. And it made me more tired.
Sometimes, when I look at my kids, I see time. And it’s being siphoned away, because, generally, I don’t have much of my own, and they want the little bit that I do have.
Sometimes, when I look at my kids, I see a mess. Maybe not at that very moment, but soon, there will, without fail, be a mess. I might not even find the mess for days or even weeks. It might happen right in front of me, but it also might happen behind the coach, or under the bed, or in some nook or cranny that I can’t even reach. And then, it will need to be cleaned up. Which will take time. And will make me tired.
And always, when I think these things, when I see things this way, I feel terrible. When I look at my kids, and I see these things, I hope they can’t tell, because that isn’t how I want them to see me, seeing them. This is not the man I aspire to be.
I wish it weren’t true, but from time to time my perspective sinks into these places of which I am not proud.
But sometimes, when I really squint my eyes, when I really focus, I see something different altogether. When I work at it, from time to time, rather than fatigue, or frustration, or a mess, I can see something really special when I listen to and look at my kids.
In coaching, they call it level three listening, where you can sort of step outside of the current conversation, and watch it as an observer. I’m not very good at that as a coach, but I’m working on getting better at it as a father, and it’s a fascinating thing.
Sometimes when Hope is talking about wizards, or living in a mansion, or raising horses, I can see her at 18. I can see her at 18, and the picture I’m taking with my mind, it’s playing on her graduation video, or perhaps she’s a bit older, and it’s playing at her rehearsal dinner, and I’m looking back on that moment, the very moment that I’m currently in, and it makes me smile and maybe even cry as I remember it. I’m happy to have experienced it. I’m happy to be experiencing it.
Sometimes when Harper is explaining something to me, about a friend, or an experience in school, or asking a question that has absolutely no bearing on anything at all, I can see his 16 year old self. He’s almost a man. The little sparks of courage that we’ve seen inside of his sweet little spirit, and the undercurrent of kindness that flows right through him have grown up right along with him. His courage has matured, and he’s brave. He’s growing into someone that people respect, and admire, and he’s making a positive impact on the world around him with his genuine kindness.
And then, in that moment, as I look at his once and future self, I’m proud. I’m proud then, right then, of who he is, and who he will become. I’m happy in that moment. I’m sad too. And I’m hopeful. And I’m proud. First in the future moment that I’ve allowed myself to see, and then in the present moment, I’m proud of my son, both the 4 year old and the 16 year old. And I can see them both so clearly.
My concern about time shifts then, from a worry that it’s being siphoned away, to a realization that it actually is. But in this new moment, my concern about time is not about me, or mine, it’s about us, and ours. It’s slipping right on through my hands, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I can’t grab hold of it or keep it from going by.
But every now and then, I can slow it down, just enough, to remind myself about how important the moment is. Every now and then I see my kids how they really are, away from my tired, and my worry, and my fatigue, and my frustration. I can see them right now, and I can see them in the future. When that happens, I see them differently and I hope that they can see me, seeing them, that way.
And perhaps on day they will look back and remember their dad, and be filled with an unusual joy, and pride. They will remember, even if the details are a bit fuzzy, how he looked at them, and how he listened. Perhaps as that image plays on their graduation slideshow, or at their rehearsal dinner, they will be reminded how I looked at them, and how I loved them, and how I saw who they were becoming while loving exactly who they were.