Time in the car with my daughters has become quite valuable. My new Hands Free way of life means that all notifications on my Blackberry are turned off, which means no distracting “dings” of incoming emails, phone calls or text messages. It means no intrusions from the radio or DVD player. What it means is conversation. What it means is laughter. What it means is connection.
In fact, the thrice-weekly twenty-minute drive to my oldest daughter’s swim practice that was once viewed as a monotonous task is now considered a gift. Because I pick her up right after school, this time in the car has provided an ideal opportunity to hear about her day. I consciously avoid being on ‘autopilot’ behind the wheel. I ask questions. I listen and respond to what she says. In fact, our lively conversation has become such a normal practice during the drive that my four-year-old daughter has begun to interject her own preschool experiences into the conversation. (This is usually where the laughter comes in.)
On this particular day, we planned to stop by a place of business where three kind workers had become particularly special to our family.
My seven-year-old recently made her very first batch of mini loaves all by herself to present as a gift.
I enjoyed watching as she experimented with different tasty toppings, like cinnamon, mini chocolate chips and walnuts.
Once baked, she lovingly wrapped them and secured them with a colorful ribbon, representing the true gifts that they indeed were, created from her own two hands.
Just looking at her creations caused me to recall a few particular moments as a teacher when a proud boy or girl presented me with something homemade. The delighted look on their faces made it appear of if they were holding a shiny bar of gold rather than a lumpy loaf of bread or misshapen baked good.
We now pulled into the place of business, and I escorted my four-year-old daughter to present the baked good to her special person. I quickly noted that there were no customers, so I was relieved that we would not be interfering.
My oldest child took the other two loaves and presented them to the other special recipients by herself.
As soon as we got back into the car I asked, “So what did they say when you gave them the bread?”
I was expecting a sweet story of love and thanks, but that is not what I received.
What she described in the following sixty-seconds was so maturely observant I had to check the rearview mirror to see if a seven-year-old child was sitting there strapped in a pink booster seat.
“Well,” my daughter began, “Mrs. Jones bent down to my size, said thank you and gave me a nice long hug.”
Then her voice lowered a few decibels, “But Mrs. Smith didn’t say anything. She just took it from me.”
And what she said next was the part that got me, “She didn’t even look in my eyes, Mom. She was too busy.”
My heart sank. But it was not because of the reason you might expect. My heart did not sink for my daughter. And it did not sink for Mrs. Smith. The reason my heart fell to the deepest darkest place of shame and sadness was for myself.
How many times was I too busy running around to look into the eyes of my child? How many times did I scurry through the house in the morning rush not even once looking into my husband’s eyes? How many times did I neglect to look into the eyes of a passing stranger and smile? How many times did my daughter make the same observation she made of Mrs. Smith about me?
I could no longer convince myself that children are too young to notice. I had my evidence. And it came straight from my daughter’s mouth. These were words I would not forget: She didn’t even look me in the eyes, Mom. I made a promise then and there. I promised myself that those words would change me. And they have…
When my child speaks to me there is nothing I am doing that is more important than looking into her eyes.
When my child has something to say, the other “things” I am doing can wait while I give her my undivided attention.
I don’t want my child’s memory of me to be a mother who was “too busy” to look up from what she was doing when her daughter spoke to her.
When she speaks, I want to see her eyes. And she deserves to see mine.
For she is my child; she is my gift; she is my precious bar of gold that I once held in my hands. And for that, she deserves to see my eyes.
They say the eyes are windows to the soul. And due to daily distraction, I often walk right past the beauty inside those windows, and I neglect to see the heart of what lies inside. Is there a pair of eyes that you could look into more today than you did yesterday? Whether it is your child, your spouse, your friend, or a stranger, take a look today. You may see something beautiful that you walked right past before.