I found this recently and included it with some baby gifts I mailed yesterday.
If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.
I keep looking back at this passage, thinking about how important it is. The message is so simple, so right. I’ve known since Joey was born that I wanted to appreciate every little moment — even the frustrating ones — because life is short and one day, my kids may not want anything to do with me. So I tried to enjoy the clinging boy who was always by my side and rarely socialized with other kids. He kept me from visiting with moms at playgroups because he needed my full attention. He kept me distracted at activities and events with his shyness and refusal to participate. While overwhelmed by this sensitive, stubborn personality, I tried to also love these moments when my baby boy wanted only me.
It’s hard to be completely in the moment all the time. It’s hard to offer undivided attention always. It’s hard to stop correcting behavior that seems so disruptive at times. It’s hard to seriously play — especially at the end of the day, after ten whole hours of togetherness with my boys, when they want to run around as dinosaurs. With me as Stegosaurus. But it’s so important. I know that.
So today, for a moment, I took my eyes of my watch and I watched with my eyes. I ignored the pile of unfolded clean laundry that had been sitting in the laundry room for hours and I sat outside in the back yard and watched Joey and Danny play. I really watched. I absorbed their actions and their sounds and their peace.
Joey sat on a small plastic chair at a small plastic table. He had covered the table with trucks — both big and small — and a pile of dirt and a stack of grass blades he plucked out of our yard that has just started returning to a nice shade of green. Joey loaded his trucks with dirt and grass and he told me he was making a salad — a dirt salad with grass. He asked me if I wanted some. I told him I did.
Danny sat some distance from Joey near his sandbox. He too had a collection of trucks and he filled each one with sand. He was silent in his play — focused and intent and looking very official wearing a crown made of teal-colored wrapping paper. He later joined Joey, asked if he could sit down, and was delighted when Joey allowed him to play. My boys don’t always play nicely together and seem to spend more time fighting than agreeing. But for this moment, they were happy and content and beautiful. I am glad I was watching.
I don’t want to look back years from now and wish I’d done things differently with my kids. And I’m glad that I can now appreciate the close bond I had with my clingy little guy. Because just yesterday when we went to the park, he accepted an invitation to play with a little boy and he never looked back at me. I watched him, though, aware of his every move. Aware of my own sadness about my boy who is growing up and away from me. Aware of my joy that he is thriving now in ways I could never have predicted. Aware that I need to keep watching and connecting and playing and hugging. Even when Joey gets out of bed four and five times each night and tests my patience. Even when Danny rattles me when he shouts at the top of lungs to get my attention. Even when both boys go crazy at the same time each time I try to talk on the phone and when Joey tells me “you’re mean” when I don’t buy him a toy and Danny calls me “stinky butt” when he doesn’t get what he wants. I know I will miss these moments one day — funny as it may seem.
So for these days I have now — with two little boys who fill me with love and joy and frustration like I’ve never known — I will cherish these moments. And I will always be watching.