When Evan was three, we signed him up for a soccer league. Not because he liked soccer, or was asking to play a sport, but because we thought it would be "good" for him. And, to be honest, it was because all of the other moms of three-year olds in our neighborhood were doing it, and I didn't want him (me?) to be left behind.
Not my best parenting move, I admit.
He hated it. Well, no, not really. He loved it when I was out on the field HOLDING HIS HAND and kicking the ball with him. But he didn't like anything else about it....not the drills, the other kids, the shin guards, nothing.
I kept watching him, feeling guilty for pushing him to do something horrible like Organized Sports. And feeling frustrated that he wouldn't just join the rest of the group of kids who seemed to have no trouble leaving their parents on the sideline. I saw him stand next to me, watching the birds instead of keeping his eye on the ball. But then, I saw him walk up to the coach. He said, "Coach John, I see a hawk. It's probably a red-tailed hawk because they live around here." Coach John followed Evan's pointing finger and saw the hawk. Instead of saying something vaguely dismissive like, "That's great, buddy, let's get back to the game!" he said, "Wow, Evan. I didn't even see that hawk flying way up there. You're a great noticer."
And he is. He always has been. He's a Great Noticer.
I love seeing my kids through other people's eyes. Other people are the Great Noticers of my kids. They see the things that sometimes get lost for me in the busy and the hectic and the "How many times do I have to ask you to PUT ON YOUR SHOES?!"
Max's preschool teacher texted me the other day from school. "Max is cracking us up right now!" she wrote. "He's doing 'Movie Surveys.' If you've seen the movie Frozen, thump your chest like a gorilla!" She noticed and laughed and took the time to share her, and Max's, joy with me. But Max does stuff like that all the time. "Molly! If you like Strawberry Shortcake say Too Too Ta-Doo!" And too often, my response is something like, "Max, can you please just finish your lunch? Let your sister eat."
Do I notice how clever and funny and sweet my kids are? Sure. And I try to capture their personalities and their senses of humor on this blog so I don't forget how they are now....and how they used to be.
But I've been making a point to Notice more, and to share it with them when I do.
I'm sure you've read, by now, the article that's been republished so many times I can't even be sure that I've found the original....but it's called "Six Words" and it's about the most important sentence you can say to your kids: "I love to watch you ______."
It's meant to express your joy in watching your child be. You're not just proud of his winning goal, you just love to watch him play soccer, whether or not he scores. It's also meant to instill within your child that the point of participation, in anything, should be for the experience, not the outcome.
Max and I went to a birthday party yesterday. It was for his best friend and all of the kids from his class were there....but it was at a party place, a little gym, not at her house. He was nervous. It took him awhile before he left my lap (because he needed me in the gym with him, not watching from the waiting room, like the other moms). But, ultimately, he left my lap. He ran and climbed and swung and danced with the other kids, smiling and waving to me from across the gym. And he had fun. That night, tucking him in to bed, I said, "Max, I loved watching you play at the birthday party today." He smiled. "You were brave," I said, "and I love to see you be brave and find that new things can be fun." He nodded and said, "Yup. I sure was brave. I think I would say....I'm impressed with me."
I'm impressed with all three of them. All the time. Now to slow down and notice it more.
I want to see my kids the way other people see them. I want to be a Great Noticer of my kids. I will be.