What Our Children Want Us To See

What Our Children Want Us to See

*name has been changed

“I wish you were my mom,” Jeremy* said—not once, but twice.

I wasn’t even a mother yet. I was simply a teacher who listened and loved and ran to her mentor if she didn’t know what to do—which was quite often.

But in Jeremy’s eyes, those traits were enough to qualify me as a good mom.

For weeks leading up to his heartbreaking admission, I noticed that when he would hug me, he’d take in deep breaths—as if my scent was his oxygen.  He lingered in my classroom long after the other children departed to proudly present me with a rock or a feather he found in his backyard. And sometimes he would just stand next to me—not saying anything, just standing near. It was clear Jeremy found comfort in my presence, but until he voiced his wish for me to be his mom, I had no idea why.

“What do you need that you aren’t getting at home?” I cautiously asked one day, not sure if I really wanted to know the answer.

Jeremy’s words were chilling. I can still remember how his eyes became dark, like the bottomless depths of a somber lake, when he whispered, “I just want her to see me.”

I swallowed a lump in my throat and fought back tears that were on the verge of spilling out. “What kind of things does your mom not see?” I managed to squeak out without crying.

And what Jeremy told me has become my guide for giving my children what they need—not to survive—but to flourish.  I don’t know where Jeremy is now, but I know he’d want me to share the words that impact my daily interactions with my children.

What I Want You to See (From the Voice of a Child)  

See the way my tongue sticks out when I’m making a beautiful creation for you.
See all the things I am doing right, not all the things I’m doing wrong.

See the way the way my eyes scan the auditorium until I find you.
See how the sight of your face makes me sigh with relief.

See the way my face changes when you take time to explain things to me.
See what a little patience and compassion can do for my scowl.

See the way I look at you when you read a book to me.
See that it doesn’t take much to make me feel loved and secure.

See that I gave it my all even though I didn’t quite succeed.
See that I’d do anything to make you proud.

See that my pants are too short because I am growing, not because I am an inconvenience.
See that I want to grow up to be just like you.

See that I’m calm and quiet when I am sleeping.
See that I’m carefree and joyful when I am running.

See that I’m gonna be something great if you can just look beyond the flaws.
See how a few words of affirmation make my shoulders rise.

See that my eyes tear up a little when we say goodbye.
See that my favorite pastime is spending time with you.

See that you’re the light of my life.
See that I desperately want to be the light of yours.

See me for what I am: a child who has many needs, but also a heart full of love.

See that beneath the dirt-stained pants and pouty lip, I am your everyday miracle.
Your everyday miracle.
And if you look a little deeper and gaze a little longer,
You’ll see all that am.

Out of all the students I had in my ten-year teaching career, I think about Jeremy the most. I’ll be honest, that little boy haunts my dreams. I tried to make things better in his home life. I sought as much outside help as I could to improve his situation. But I’m still left with the feeling that I could have done more.

Maybe that’s why I look into my children’s eyes when they speak, even though I’ve heard that story ten times already.

Maybe that’s why I pay attention when they say, “Watch me, Mama!” And not only do I watch, but I say, “I see you, baby. I see you!”

Maybe that’s why I say, “I’m the luckiest mom in the world,” even on days when I don’t feel like it.

Maybe that’s why I look for the good, always the good in my children, even when I have to dig a little to find it.

Because loving a person means seeing him, really seeing him, above the distractions, the chaos, the mess, and the imperfections.

Loving a person means seeing him with so much love in your eyes that you can’t hold back the tears.

Because you are his parent and he is your child.

And you couldn’t bear the thought of him (or her) belonging to anyone else.

children who shine 2



May 7th marked the one-year anniversary of “How to Miss a Childhood.” Thanks to you, it has reached over three million views. Through hundreds of heartfelt comments, I know children are being seen. I’ve received many messages that say, “I didn’t realize how many precious moments I was missing in my child’s life.” I wrote that post to help bring awareness to those, who like myself, had become consumed by their distractions. I am grateful to know the message did, in fact, create awareness. Looking back at it now, one year later, I know I wrote it in honor of Jeremy, the kid who wanted to be seen … the kid who asked his teacher if she would be his mom—because everyday a part of my heart wishes I could have been.  I

Update: January 2016 – Since this post was published, I’ve gone on to write two books that enable our children to be “seen”. See HANDS FREE MAMA for 12 steps to letting go of distraction, perfection, and pressure. See HANDS FREE LIFE for 9 daily habits that bring peace, presence, and positivity to a hurried home & frenzied heart. 

Thank you for being a part of  The Hands Free Revolution. I am grateful for your company on this journey to let go of distraction in order to see the everyday miracles in our lives. Your comments, emails, and presence inspire me greatly.   



  1. 1


    I just love this article and thought. As simple as it sounds, we all do get caught up in the moment of a must read email, a must take phone call an email that I must respond to… whatever it is that takes us away from our family, we all find other distractions. This has become one of my goals I vow to work on each and every day. To REALLY SEE, REALLY LISTEN and REALLY BE with my children. When I turn off work, I want to truly turn off work and turn on family. They deserve ME. All of me! Thank you for this inspirational blog.

    • 2


      What a powerful daily goal, Tania — to really see, really listen, and really be with the ones you love when you are in their presence. It is difficult, as you said, but the payoff is huge. There are so many benefits to our relationships when our loved ones see that they are valuable and worthy of our time and attention. I appreciate the comment and support so very much!

  2. 3

    Judith says

    A lovely article, albeit a little sad. Maybe your blog should come with a ‘tearjerker’ warning for pregnant women 🙂 I’m expecting our 3rd child. Have been reading your posts for about a year now. I wanted to share something I came across called “100 ways to be kind to your child” on http://www.creativewithkids.com. As well as trying my best to be hands-free mama (trying not always succeeding!), I’m working my way through this list….. Thanks for your posts.

    • 4


      Hi Judith, I am so glad you shared “100 ways to be kind to a child” — it is one of my favorite posts of all-time. I printed it out and it hangs in my kitchen. Like you, I try to work on one or two a day. The author, Alissa, is a friend that I met through blogging. Her whole site is wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

      • 5


        I can’t tell you how humbled I am to have my post about 100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child linked to here. You, Rachel are an inspiration to me, and my family and I are better off for having found you. I hope we are able to keep reminding each other about the simple things that allow us to really enjoy our children. Connection, not perfection, right?
        All my best,

  3. 9



    I am a therapist in Maryland, and I see children like this one all the time. Love is free, and so many find it so hard to give it. Teachers like you are a blessing.


    • 10


      Thank you, Cornelia. I come from a family of therapist. I know the work you do is not easy, but it makes an incredible difference. Thank you for all that you do. You are a blessing, too!

  4. 11

    Bharati Shah says

    Thanks Rachel, for your daily wonderful messages. They are so inspiring, and are so helpful in making me a better mom everyday. It has become my daily dose of inspiration !!!

  5. 15


    I ♡ your beautiful stories– they encourage me to be the best momma I can for my children. Thank you for helping me to slow down everyday life!

  6. 17


    You are always beautiful and inspiring even to the children you have touched. They have always seen the connected side of you, even when you were struggling before. Every day when I start to feel distracted while trying to listen to my boys, I think of you giving me the little kick under the table or a nudge in my back and I focus.
    Your messages always seem to come at the right time. And I feel that I have truly grown along with you, at least since I found you! I’ve been following you along for so long that many of these thoughts are automatic for me now.

    Recently, my son’s friend said this same thing to me. He was having a hard time at home and relished that I paid attention to him here. I was able to talk with his mom more about it and they have made some drastic changes at their house too. He’s a happy guy back home now. They squashed the negative attention, gave him a little space for just observing, and then slowly starting pouring out the positive attention. They are all much happier now!
    So, I will add that it is great to make a change and great to try every day to make a change, but remember that sometimes we have been in the dark for so long that others need time to process our change. If we jump dramatically to the other side, it leaves skeptics around us and truthfully is hard to maintain too.
    Baby steps help, and you often remind us that sometimes it just takes a moment to start something beautiful.
    Take care!

    • 18


      Oh Wendy! What a joy it was to hear from you today! We have been on this journey a long time together, haven’t we? I am so touched by your kind words today. To know that you feel like you have grown right there beside me in letting go of distraction means so much! I thank you for also sharing your story about your son’s friend. I am so inspired by the way you handled it. How often we think we shouldn’t get involved or that it’s not our business, yet we miss an opportunity to help someone else. I love that you were able to talk to the mom and helped them figure out a way to make things better.

      Baby steps on this journey are powerful! And these little steps bring us closer to the people we love and the live we yearn to live. I thank you for sticking with me for so long, Wendy. You are a gem.

      • 19


        I must mention also, that in the process of helping our friends, I was able to ensure that the same respect will come back my way. We raise our kids in a community sometimes. I know that if my son ever said anything to cause concern, the favor will be returned. Our kids need a safe place at home, but they also need a safe place that is NOT home sometimes too.
        I’m hitting teenage years now, so I think it is even more important now.

        Take care my friend! It was so nice to hear from you.

  7. 20


    What a heart breaking thing to have to hear from a child. I am glad that he had you there at least for a bit to give what comfort and care you could.

    I am always making sure to tell my little bear how precious he is to me and to show him that I care. I love the idea of actually telling him that “I see him!” Going to add that one into my normal phrases for him now too!

    Holly at Not Done Growing

  8. 22


    So moving, and so sad. On a brighter note, it’s also a testament to the lasting influence that other adults can have in children’s lives – which is so important, regardless of whether the child is getting everything he or she should be at home. I’m sure “Jeremy’s” life was richer for Rachel’s presence in it.

  9. 24


    Incredible and truly so honest. I have tried so so hard to be truly in my kid’s lives. In it!! I know that I fall short a lot but I know what their eyes look like and I think that is a good step. Thank you for sharing. I don’t read many blogs but yours is a must.

    • 25


      Heather, this gives me such hope: “I know that I fall short a lot, but I know what their eyes look like and I think that is a good step.” Oh yes, my friend … if each day we can say we we took the time to look in their eyes and see them, we have something to celebrate. I love thinking about parenting in simple, achievable actions that over time amount to something significant and long-lasting. I love the insight you brought to the blog today and for your honesty. You speak truths that we can all relate to so well. I thank you for that.

  10. 26

    Kiersten Keester says

    I had a friend’s daughter say this to me as I was giving her a bath after a picnic and swim at a nearby lake one summer. They were staying with us for a few days on a rare visit. When we got home, I put her and my son into the bath and sat and played and talked to them while they got clean and quieted down after a full afternoon of sun and fun. When she said the words, my heart dropped to my knees because her wish was inspired by a bath and a little attention, and it made me sad that my friend had become so removed from her child’s life. Looking back I don’t think I did enough with those words, I should have done more, and that little girl haunts me at times. So thank you for the reminder that we all want and need to be seen.

    • 27


      Hi Kiersten, thank you so much for taking the time to share your powerful story. I am sorry you have carried that feeling of “should I have done more?” with you. I know how hard it is to bear. However, I think back to a friend of mine who didn’t have the greatest home life. She spent lots of time at my house. She said she often sat and listened to my parents talk to each other and absorbed the loving atmosphere of my home. This became her model of what kind of parent/home she wanted to have some day. I only recently learned this when my friend shared this with my parents. They were so touched to know that just by being loving to her and accepting her into our home, she gained something valuable. My friend is an incredible mother now. She attributes much of it to the modeling of my parents. So maybe that little girl soaked up your mothering and perhaps your example stayed with her. Perhaps you made more of a difference than you know.

  11. 28

    GG says

    reading this made me cry for myself and realize why i continue to make mistakes in relationships – still seeking to be seen by someone who wasn’t there for me growing up and playing out this drama with my partners. this has inspired me to dig deeper and release myself from this pattern. thank you for sharing.

    • 29


      Oh GG, that is a powerful revelation you have experienced and I thank you for sharing it with us so that others might be enlightened. I love sharing this journey with you and hope you are getting closer to peace with every step.

  12. 30

    Faith says

    This is my first time reading any of your posts but I wanted to say thank you. My fiance and I are about to sign a lease and just the other night to set up guidelines of where we want to be in 5, 10, and 20 years. We stated we wanted kids and how many kids but we never took the extra steps to really think about what that meant. So thank you, for reminding me that being a mom isn’t just having a child but really being their for that child.
    Thank you and way to be a great mom!!

  13. 32

    Ev says

    I had a student at the middle school level say that to me once, and not in the joking way that adolescents do when they aren’t getting what they want at home. We were walking together, and she (a big tough 8th grader) said, “Miss, you always smell so good.” I laughed and said it was just laundry soap. I don’t like perfumes on me, but they are lovely on others. She said she knew that but she wanted me to know how nice it was to sit and do work with me because I smelled good. She then said she had been doing her own laundry since she was in 4th grade and she would often fall asleep before it was time to put things in the dryer. She would forget about them and they’d sour, and she said, “no matter how hard I try I can’t get them to smell good again. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live at your house and sleep on sheets that smell as good as you do. I wish you were my mom.” I told her that it was the greatest compliment I had ever been paid by a student. She didn’t tell me in s many words, but she let me know that she valued my attention and my encouragement. That was ten years ago, and we remain in touch today. She’s had a tough go, but she always tries to right her wrongs and do her best. I am proud to know her.

    • 33


      Oh Ev, you brought back a memory with your beautiful story. I had a little boy that would come to my room at the end of each day to wait for his group to load the bus. I wore Bath and Body Works lotion at the time and boy, you would have thought it was the best smelling lotion in the world the way he fussed over how good I smelled. He gave me the most hugs and was just a pure delight.

      I love your story so much. I have read it several times. I loved what you said to the young lady when she said she wished she could live with you. And I love that you are still in touch with one another. Just knowing you are in the world makes me feel happy and hopeful. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience.

  14. 34

    Annon says

    SO DID YOU HELP the boy or not?! There must be more to the story. Did you just let it ride or did you get proactive and get involved. BC your credibility rides on your answer.

    • 35

      Danielle says

      She clearly says: ” I tried to make things better in his home life. I sought as much outside help as I could to improve his situation. But I’m still left with the feeling that I could have done more.” She tried. That’s a lot more than others would do. She also LEARNED from the experience and is using it to enlighten the rest of us. That is credit enough in my book.

        • 37

          Amy B says

          Rachel – please don’t be upset by “Annon’s” ridiculous comment. Anyone who has read your blogs knows what a kind, caring, loving, involved teacher and mother you were and are.

  15. 38

    Ellen says

    Annon, Rachel was “proactive” simply by doing and saying the things she did to and for Jeremy. The fact that she may have been his saving grace just by being the teacher she was, is more proactive than anything else I can think of. Unless you have been in those situations, you have no idea the limitations an outsider faces in trying to turn things around in a child’s personal life. The “more to the story ” part could be a whole novel .

    • 39


      Ellen, thank you. I am so touched by your response. You clearly understand how complicated such situations can be. The documentation I collected to help him was a file folder that was about 3 inches thick. Like you said, a whole novel. But I like to think that when Jeremy was in my presence, he knew love. And he could always count on me for that. He knew how special he was to me. And I like to think that by knowing someone believed in him, he was able to believe in himself. I always appreciate your comments, but today, it was especially meaningful and comforting.

  16. 42

    Diane Zebrine says

    Oh, another exquisite story… I remember those moments, and telling myself that I couldn’t raise everyone else’s children…I could only love them, and then go home and use what I learned to love my own children better.

    • 43


      Oh that is just lovely, Diane: “I couldn’t raise everyone else’s children…I could only love them, and then go home and use what I learned to love my own children better.” Yes! That is exactly what I try to do. I am grateful you articulated this so beautifully. I will remember your words.

  17. 44

    Jean V. Dubois says

    It is hard to overestimate the value of other adults in a child’s life – even those who come from good “seeing” homes. From my observation when an adult who has no “duty” to love and care for the child smiles and listens and appreciates a child it gives them a great boost in confidence. I call these kids my “intern grandchildren” and they have added so much to my life.

  18. 46

    Anne says

    Love, love, love! My student, just like your Jeremy, is Ira. Oh how my heart wishes to have helped him more……

  19. 48

    Amy B says

    Oh, Rachel, as always your posts are so moving. This one really, really hit me hard, and for different reasons than most of your readers it would seem. As I struggle with my own hands-free journey, and my own (many) failings as a parent, I sometimes worry that my kids – especially my older “Aspie” son – will wish that someone else was their mom. When I think of the times I snap with impatience, or yell in frustration, or just don’t have time, I cringe with the thought that one day my son(s) might just tell a friend’s mom he wishes she were his instead. I need to hold your words in my heart every day and try to remember what is most important.

    • 49


      Hi Amy, thank you for sharing a piece of your heart. I believe that when we share the pains and struggles in our heart with others, those damaging feelings lose their grip — at least a little bit — on us. I am familiar with those feelings of thinking I am not good enough, but at some point, I realized those feelings did me no good. I decided to accept the fact that I was not perfect and yes, I lose my cool at times, but I am human. I can apologize and move on. That is a gift to show our children that it is okay to make mistakes, just try and learn from them and move on. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. I hope when you start to think negatively, you will remind yourself of all the good things you do — especially the one about how you show up each day for your kids. You show up. They can count on you. That is significant.

  20. 50

    Teddy says

    There must be more to this story because I’ve had children say I wish I was their mommy and my heart doesn’t break for them. It’s right about the time they just got yelled at for coming over without telling their parents or they got to cook s’mores in our fire pit or we put a jumpy house up in our yard.

    So unless you knew this child’s home life actually was horrible – I would think he just really loved his teacher. The one that’s not telling him to brush his teeth at night or to stop watching tv or he has to eat his dinner or to stop hitting his sister.

    I am sure you are a fabulous teacher and a fabulous mother but kids say the darnedest things all the time. And just because at that moment they feel like you would be a really awesome mom – doesn’t actually mean they aren’t getting enough love at home.

    • 51

      my3angels says

      I can’t imagine that a child who got into trouble for coming over, or not being able to stay up later, or any of the other million rules we parents put into place for our kids, would respond with “I just want her to see me”.

      Whether Jeremy’s home life was “horrible” or not we may never know, but this was a little boy who, for whatever reason, wasn’t feeling the connection with his mother that he clearly felt with Rachel. And Rachel DID see him and quite possibly altered the course of his life (and hers) with her love and attention. And that is a very special thing.

      • 52


        Thank you for your thoughtful and kind response. It was the first and the only time in my whole teaching career that a child ever said that to me so I knew I must do all I could to just love him and build him up when he was in my presence.

  21. 53


    Beautiful post. I once had a child tell me they wished I was their mother. It was a friend of my daughter’s. The words of this child broke my heart. However the words also encouraged me. I use to doubt my mothering skills thinking I was never good enough. The words of that little girl sowed me that perhaps I was good enough. She could see something that she wanted when she saw me interacting with my daughter. Thanks for sharing and spreading the word. xx Jo

  22. 54

    APeene says

    My youngest children are now turning 13 (twins), and I hope I did all of the things in this article. It really made me tear up, and I know from my experience as a CASA, and as a volunteer for foster care review, that there are many, many Jeremy’s out there. I will continue my pursuit to help as many as I can. The teachers out there, like you, are a God send to these children. Bless your loving heart.

    • 57


      Steps and Staircases is a beautiful and uplifting site, Lisa! I adore the picture you used to link to this post. And the hydrogen peroxide picture with your child’s get well note made me feel hopeful and happy. I really appreciate your support of today’s message in such a beautiful way.

  23. 58

    Robin Harveston says

    This made me sigh deep as tears rolled down my face. I am new here and I can see I have found a great site. Look forward to more inspirational readings. A million thanks.

  24. 59

    Rachel says

    Rachel these words are moving and hard to hear at the same time for those of us who don’t feel that we’re doing so well with this. Relationships are what life is all about, and relationships are the thing in life that are most rewarding. They are also the thing that comes with the most grief and pain and challenge and… yuck.
    So for me, and for others in the same boat as me (is it possible that I’m alone in this? I don’t think so.) I struggle to give the emphasis on these beautiful gifts that I’ve been given in my husband and my children because it is safer and easier on the surface to push them away with all the distractions.
    And for me (and others like me) we also can look at our lives and feel so far off the mark that moving in a better direction feels impossible.
    Thank you for highlighting so beautifully the simplicity of what people need.

    • 60


      Rachel, I appreciate your honesty and openness. That could not have been easy to write. Let me assure you, you are not alone. I had a two year period in my life when I became consumed with my distractions and filled my life with so many outside commitments that I didn’t know if I was coming or going. The more distracted I became, the further I got from my family. This made me feel like a failure as a parent and wife so I dug deeper into my distractions. When I had my breakdown moment almost three years ago, I realized I didn’t want to live the rest of my life that way — but changing seemed so huge, so unattainable. So I started with one tiny step. One ten-minute period of just sitting beside my child as she watched Lion King. I won’t go into all the details, but she reached out to me, she connected with. There was hope. I did another 10 minute period — just being all there — no distractions. Another connection. And with that, my Hands Free journey began. So I hope that today you will not think of the entire mountain, but rather a single step in the direction you want to go. There is hope. And you are not alone.

  25. 61

    Anon. says

    This makes me sad.
    I was a Jeremy when I was little. And that’s why I’ve always tried to be there for my children. Always. That’s why I’ve always tried to make them feel that I love them more than I love my own life. I still do that, even though they’re almost grown up now. They need me just as much now as they did when they were little. They just need a different kind of attention from me, but the basic idea is still the same.

    • 62


      Thank you. This is so powerful. You illustrate so beautifully that despite our upbringing we can make different choices than our parents did with us. And that even when they are grown, children still need and want their parents unconditional love. I am grateful you took the time to share so those with a similar experience can feel hopeful. You are an inspiration. Peace and love to you, dear one.

  26. 63


    This article really struck a chord with me. My blog is mostly about cakes, cookies, cake decorating, etc. However, on Tuesday I wrote a post about something that’s been on my mind and it is so similar and relevant to your story. I wish more people could have this kind of awareness. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the post I wrote: http://www.edgedesserts.com/2013/05/see-people.html

    • 64


      Thank you, Elaine. Your blog post was extremely powerful. I left you a comment on the blog. Thank you so much for letting me know and for the priceless message you shared with the world.

  27. 66

    Vicki says

    I’m so overcome with emotion about this that all I can say is WOW. Wow, wow, wow. I need these reminders. I needed to hear this. It was hard to hear because I think I’ve failed miserably at alot of what you said, but I still needed to hear it all. God bless you each and EVERY day!

  28. 67


    When I taught 7th grade math, I had a student who was distracted and falling asleep in class one day. When everyone was working on something, I knelt beside her desk and quietly asked her what was wrong. She told me that she and her twin sister had been awake until 3:30 in the morning, sitting together on her bed and holding onto each other, while they listened to their mother and stepfather fighting in the next room. She didn’t need to learn math that day. What she needed was a blankie and a pillow and a safe place to lie down and sleep for 90 minutes.

    That little girl is now in college, but I think of her and of that little episode every day. Students like this girl and your Jeremy, the ones that haunt us, are the ones that shape our lives. They turn us into better parents and better people.

    • 68


      The world suddenly seems better just knowing you are in it. So many beautiful pieces to your story, Ray — and a few words that I really needed today. I am grateful for you and your message.

  29. 69


    I browsed (albeit quickly) through the comments, and I didn’t notice any fathers posting comments. Now, I realize this is a mother’s blog, and most of the readers are mothers. But I would beg all of you mothers to share this post with your husbands. They need it for (at least) two reasons.

    First: As a father, I too can get blinded by everyday life. I too can fail to see my children. I may not be the primary nurturing element in the house, but I still need to see my children the way they need to be seen. It is very easy to justify myself by saying “I am doing my part – I am a good provider, and I work hard so they can have the necessities of life.” And yet, this is not enough. I am not just a worker. I am a Dad. My children need ‘me’ as much as they need clothing, shelter, and food. As they say, the forest for the trees.

    Secondly, this article opened my eyes to all the many ways my own wife is such a wonderful mother. While reading this story, I smiled to myself knowing that she truly sees our children. Our children will not be wishing someone else was their mother. (Well, except maybe when they don’t get their way – but that is obviously not the intent of this blog.) My wife is caring, devoted, invested, and attentive. She knows how deeply my boy needs her, despite his indomitable need to control everything. She knows how sensitive he is to her interactions with him, despite his frequent insensitive assaults on her. She lives in the moment with my twin girls, and appreciates the beauty and magic of those two messy, screechy, irritable, bickering, adorable, sweet, perfect little toddlers .

    In the thick of things, it is easy to pass over these motherly qualities, and criticize or disagree with her methods. When everyone is crying or whining or fussing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I needed this post to remind me that the core essentials and Godliness of Mothehood is ever present in my longsuffering wife.

    One more comment – I spent some years working with youth in a Wilderness Survival Therapy program. Most of these teenagers had a criminal history, or were moments away from developing one. The most common theme I heard from this group of struggling kids was “My parents don’t really pay attention to me. They don’t understand me because they don’t really pay attention to me.”

    Thank you for this post. It is truly valuable insight.

    • 70


      Hi William, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and perspective. There are actually quite a few dads and grandfathers that follow my blog and although they don’t comment as often as the female readers, their perspective is incredibly valuable–as yours was. You have raised several very key factors about the importance of a father’s everyday presence and attention in their children’s lives. Thank you for that. I also commend you for the encouraging affirmations you wrote about your wife which I think describe many readers of this blog. This will be very affirming to those who read your comment. Thank you for your valuable contribution to this blog post by sharing your thoughts. Many of my students’ lives would have turned out a whole lot differently if they had had you for their father.

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    Kira says

    Both my husband and I have very intense jobs that rarely respect traditional working hours. When my daughter was born, I decided that there were some things I would never bend on: we would eat dinner together every night, and my phone would be put away during that time; I’d always tuck her in and read her a bedtime story, no matter who might be calling or emailing; and when we had “us” time (her current favorite activities being coloring, baking or watering our flowerbeds), it really would just be us. I can’t give her 24/7, but I can make sure that when I am focused on her, I am truly present. My husband does the same. And while my almost-5-year-old is not perfect, she is a very confident, compassionate, understanding and generous child with an enthusiasm for life that never fails to make me smile.

    I recently started volunteering with a group of borderline special needs 2nd/3rd graders and was immediately struck by how differently children behave when they never feel like they’re truly paid attention to. Some of them talk a lot, so they’re brushed off all the time. Others tend to act out, so they’re immediately blamed whenever things go wrong and never get heard. Some are just quiet, and so easily ignored.

    I think your point — that it isn’t expensive toys, or special vacations, but just everyday appreciation and presence that is so crucial to children — is incredibly important. Thank you for writing it so eloquently. I hope it inspires many others the way it has inspired me.

    • 72


      Thank you for sharing, Kira. I love this: “…it isn’t expensive toys, or special vacations, but just everyday appreciation and presence that is so crucial to children — is incredibly important.”

  31. 73


    Thank you for your thoughts. I tried to really see my daughter today, and it was one of those days that took a microscope to find the joy. I love the line about ‘it doesn’t take all that much to make me happy.’

  32. 74

    Jill says

    Thank you for sharing this! I am on my phone way too much, and I am trying to stop, but always feel like I might “miss” something if I don’t have it on me. What I am really missing is something cute my kids are doing. I’m not expecting a change to happen overnight, but I hope that in time, I will be completely hands free! Thank you for your inspiration!
    P.S. Your blog might be the closest thing I’ve found to a support group for mommy’s who use their phone too much!

  33. 75

    GKB says

    Great post.I’ve had the same experience twice-Once because my son told his friend that I ride my bike with him- all I was doing was a few minutes of bike riding..(this other child lives with his step mom and has anger issues but I’ve always found him sweet and he gets along very well with my son) and another time because I had a whole table,stocked with craft supplies, set aside for my daughter’s crafts..her friend’s mom only likes her child to be spending time on academics..Until then I never realized that it doesn’t really take a whole lot to please our children.I now totally understand what being there and showing up mean.Oh and after reading your blog,I have almost stopped yelling at my kids- my kids come to me with whatever problem,without the fear of getting yelled at.Also we have started the weekend hikes- last week we did the picnic breakfast too..totally enjoyed it.Thanks so much for guiding us.

  34. 76

    Jodie Esponda says

    Beautifully written. I’m in tears over the important truths you so well described but also over the student I wonder about almost daily- Andrew. I wonder about how and what he is doing, and I wish I could have done more for him. He was the toughest kid in the school, but I was able to see his sensitivity and pain, and I miss him and think about him so often.

  35. 77

    Karen says

    What a load of total shite. A child’s biggest concept of love is the love they feel for their mother. Therefore, a child wondering, “how can I give my teacher the biggest compliment ever?” might say something like this because it is the most sincere declaration of love he can think of. He doesn’t really MEAN he wants to trade his mommy in for you, he is just saying that at that moment, he thinks you are just the bees knees. You can rest assured, only a kid who REALLY loved their mom would even think up such a compliment. Get down off your soapbox, unbreak your heart and heal your bleeding heart!

  36. 78

    Noel Hill says

    I’ve learned so much from your blog, and have changed much of what I do because of it. But how do I handle my children’s constant need for attention with my job to get things done to make our family run? I’m not talking about an immaculate house or gourmet meals, but I often need to tell then “Not now”, or “No, I can’t play with you”, and I see their disappointment. For example, I had my daughter on the changing table this AM when my oldest son entered and said “Can you watch my magic trick”, I replied “No, I’m changing a diaper now” and I could see him melt. Not 10 minutes later, I had my head deep in the cavern on the dryer fishing out socks when in enters middle son asking me to watch him do a trick with the Batmobile. I said “I’ll watch in 1 minute, I need to get this stuff out”, to which he huffed, “You are always BUSY!!”. What is the middle ground? I don’t have my nose in my phone, and I do carve out time to be playful, but I also need to get things done so that we have some order at home!

  37. 79


    My gosh – returning to your blog almost 3 years later after an email notification triggered by Noel Hill’s comment… How harsh and bitter was I that day? Sheesh. I’m sorry – I re-read your post through fresh eyes and totally retract my words. It’s a really heartwarming post you wrote, and it must have taken a lot of time and thought. I must have been having a bad day. A really, really bad day. Sorry I took it out on you :-\

    • 80


      Karen, this is the first time anyone ever “came back” to apologize for a harsh comment. Your heartfelt message really touched me today. I wish there were more people in the world like you.

  38. 81

    Alyson says

    I was in my late 20s and had the same thing expressed to me. Not as a teacher though. I’d never had any kids and plans were not to ever have any (I now have a 3yr old surprise child) but at the time I had 2 young boys who were cousins to each other that would visit and hang out at my place. Their parents weren’t related to me but were both neighbours (from up the street) and friends of mine.
    The boys would come over after school or on weekends whenever I was able to have them and I would set up games (board games or science experiments or craft) and we would have great conversations. This continued from when they were ~7&8 to 10&11 (1yr age diff btwn them), after which I moved away.
    I encouraged them in schooling, as it seemed a bad experience for them, and got them to do reading or research from encyclopaedias about things of interest from our conversations – it was my requirement prior to playing games etc and through this I was able to detect dyslexia in the older boy which had never been picked up by school or parents before (yes this was reported to both, confirmed and acted on). Many times the boys expressed to me they wished they could live with me or that I could be their mum.
    The first time it was both a bit of a shock and quite sad to me. It made me feel good and valued for the quality time we spent, but sad if it meant they didn’t have it at home. They both came from large families and were the eldest children, so I’m not sure what role that played. Though tbh, even though their parents loved them, there was a bit of lack of involved care, they weren’t fussed about a lot of things and the boys were considered old enough to fend for themselves in many things I personally wouldn’t have agreed with, (like homework, or what time they went to bed or if they stayed up all night playing video games), each parent to their style of choice, it just sometimes felt as if they didn’t care so long as the kids weren’t bothering the adults. Plus I think the boys felt a little lost with lack of boundaries and ‘noticing’.
    I don’t think you can always change the parent’s attitudes, and if you can’t, then be all that you can be for that child or children. If their significant people can’t look them in the eye, see them, converse with them about their feelings, dreams, ideas, interests, then don’t hesitate to fill that void. Every child needs someone who values them for who they are. This post holds great advice for parents to prevent their child being Jeremy, but if you should become aware of a Jeremy, if you are a teacher, neighbour, coach, friend, extended family member, and they find comfort in you – be there for them, listen to them, let them know they matter to someone. If they say they wish you were their parent, thank them for appreciating your time together and tell them you would be honoured to have them as your child. Whether you can do more or not, do this at least. You don’t have to be the parent to help a child feel their worth. Be the village 🙂
    Thank you for the lovely sentiment of your post Rachel. I hope wherever Jeremy is, that life is going grand for him now and he has the love and support he needs, and a really great circle of friends as well.

  39. 82

    Ruchita says

    Beautiful! I really, really wish that there were more teachers like you out there. Then my heart wouldn’t skip a beat every time I drop my child to school. She’s 3 and this article will remind me to be a little more patient 😊
    She’s been acting out lately and I’ve been looking for what I need to do I’m going to try and see.

  40. 83

    Megan Strohmier says

    This. This is amazing.
    I am a struggling 33year old 100% single mom of my beautiful 9 year old girl. TEN YEARS OLD this year. *sob!!!* it absolutely SHATTERS my heart. Because, mainly, I can hardly recall the past 10 years.
    How many times I’ve heard my sweet girl tell me “watch me Mommy” while I have been doing the job of two hard working parents; just a girl herself raised by two amazing hard working parents; and while I would praise her and glance at her – – I can’t remember all the things!! And it kills me. Brings me to instant tears. I just feel like I need to slow down & baby my girl so much more than before. Before it’s too late, because it almost is. I’ve almost lost my innocent sweet child to trying to support us and make a life. She’s going to be 16 in 6 short tiny years. Just 6. And to think of how fast the past 9 years have flown by absolutely terrifies me. Not to mention the way the world is we raise our children in.

  41. 84


    I do not have children, but every open, vulnerable , loving post of yours I have devoured since find you among the often negative noise of the interwebs have filled my heart & quite honestly, brought me to tears. Oh what a beautiful world this would be if more people applied your experiences, lessons really, to the relationships (partners, coworkers, strangers, friends, family members, all sentient beings) in their lives. I will do my part by being more conscious in my encounters. LOVE is the answer! Always 🙂 Thankyou. I think you have breathed new life into my foto-projects. I just have to figure out how…lol

    • 85


      Well, don’t you know how to make a person’s day??? Your message makes me feel so good! Thank you for being a part of this community and for taking the time to encourage me so powerfully. I won’t forget your words.

    • 86


      PS I just looked at your website and WOW WOW WOW. You certainly have a gift, dear one. Your photos are breath-taking! There are stories in each one. Please keep shining. What a gorgeous way you have of seeing LIFE.

  42. 87

    Silvia says

    Thank you, I WILL do better. Not only for my children but also for my mother, my husband and my grandbabies.


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