Have you ever had a child tell you he wishes you were his parent?
If you haven’t, let me tell you what it feels like.
It feels like the floor beneath you just gave out, and there’s nothing to hold on to.
It feels like the sun in the sky suddenly disappeared and you’re not sure if it will ever return.
It feels like you don’t have enough tears to cry for the child standing in front of you with longing eyes.
“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.
May 7th marked the one-year anniversary of “How to Miss a Childhood.” Thanks to you, it has reached one 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 much time I spent looking at my phone,” and “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 electronic devices. I am grateful to know the message did, in fact, bring about awareness. But 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.
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.