‘Tis the season of holiday programs. Who doesn’t love to see children lined up on the stage in their Sunday best singing their darling hearts out? Whether your child is the one waving vigorously at you every thirty seconds or the one who is singing the lyrics with the emotion of Celine Dion, you can’t help but smile.
And regardless of their age, whether they are six or sixteen, they are captivating. Whether they are playing an instrument, reciting lines of a play, or singing along with a group, they are shining stars.
My favorite part of the program is when my daughter first walks out on stage. Even if her turkey hat is half covering her face or the jingle bell on her cap is bouncing right between her eyes, the first thing she does is look for me.
And when she spots me, there is a visible sigh that expels anxiety, fear, and worry from her tense little body at the same moment her face melts into that breath-taking smile. Once that contact is made, all is right in her world and she is ready to dazzle in all her glory.
Since becoming Hands Free, I am highly conscious of hands and look for every opportunity to capture hands doing what really matters. Children’s programs are the perfect place to spot Hands Free, because children truly are living models of a Hands Free life. My children teach me new lessons daily about the value of spontaneity and silliness, the rewards of slowing down, and the joy that comes from rebelling against the confines of a schedule.
On the day of my daughter’s program I took multiple pictures of the children’s sweet little hands knowing I would later look at these pictures and be inspired to write a narrative to correspond.
Yet, I suddenly felt compelled to look at the parents. First, I looked at their faces. As expected, I saw pure joy, amusement, delight, and pride. They looked like there was no place in the world they would rather be.
Then I looked at their hands.
I looked down my row. I leaned back and looked down the row behind me. I even nonchalantly turned around and viewed everyone’s hands behind me.
I couldn’t believe it. I looked one more time just to be sure. Nope. Not ONE single cell phone. Not one single I-Touch. Not one single Blackberry was held in the hands of the parents in the audience that day. And yes, I even looked for the person discreetly checking email or Facebook underneath the screen of a winter coat.
Their hands, just like their eyes, lay fully focused on their beloved child who sang before them.
And as I looked at these parents in their delighted and tearful gazes, I could almost read their thoughts:
My baby sure is growing up.
Oh, how I love the sound of her voice.
I wish he could stay little forever.
My child is beautiful.
I am so blessed.
I am so glad I didn’t miss this.
Seeing these parents with every fiber in their body attending to their child made me happy. It made me hopeful; we at least still have it in us to refrain from distraction for twenty minutes.
But then my hope was replaced with a tough question. This was the kind of question I would have tried to avoid before I became Hands Free. But now, I face it head on, knowing the tough ones are the ones that make me think and take action. These are the questions that enable me to resist distraction a little more than I did the day before.
And the question was this: “Why must my child be on stage performing in order to receive my undivided attention?”
Why can I not give my children that same focused attention and solely directed love when they are playing on the floor? Or when they are eating breakfast. Or when they are riding in the car to sports practice or music lessons. Or when it is bedtime and I am tired and have a million other things to do.
Ten minutes. That is all it takes. Give them ten minutes. Look into their eyes. Listen to their words. Notice the new freckles on their faces or the length of their eyelashes. Ask a question, wait for the answer. And then listen with the intent to recall every detail of that sacred conversation. There is absolutely nothing that can’t wait during those ten poignant minutes.
Over the upcoming holiday, I have decided to put my daughters on stage. I am placing the spotlight on my sister. I am allowing my parents to take the microphone. My spouse is getting center stage. Then I am going to sit back and watch them shine. For this is the program of a lifetime, and I don’t want to miss one second.
We have become so programmed to constantly check our communication devices that we often don’t realize how often we do it. When is the last time you turned yours completely off to focus on your child, your spouse, or a loved one? If it was recently, celebrate that achievement and continue it. If it was not recently, there is always today. Do it today.