I’ve spent the last two posts writing about making eye contact with your children or loved ones when they speak to you. Why? Because the personal connection derived through eye contact plays a critical role in grasping what really matters.
I guess you could say that on the Hands Free Mama Scale of Importance, looking someone in the eye is at the top, possibly right underneath, “Putting Distraction In Its Place.”
In the past several days, many of my readers have expressed that they “get it” in ways they did not before.
One reader shared this insight, “I am uncomfortable thinking about it, but is spot on. I feel like it even hurts my children's abilities to have conversations because they try to hurry up or tell the story in one breath for fear I won’t pay attention very long.”
Another reader said, “I got my children back after a week away for spring break with their dad, and I looked them in the eyes and I talked to them. They still acted like teenagers, but we connected in a more real way than we have in a long time. Thank you for reminding me how much eye contact and sincerity go together.”
One reader had this beautiful story to share: “I was getting ready to respond to a bunch of emails that have been hanging over me when my daughter came in the room to sit with me before bed. When she began talking, I put the computer down. Because I wasn't distracted by email, she spent ten minutes talking about the book she's reading that she loves.”
There is something powerfully reinforcing about those baby blues (or greens or browns) staring back at you that just makes want to keep stopping to look. Furthermore, when you give your loved one focused attention (rather than divided), conversation and connection are more likely to beautifully unfold.
The reader responses I have recently received indicate we have experienced a new awareness (or have been reminded) of the importance of eye contact. And due to this heightened consciousness, some of you are making changes accordingly…for that you should be applauded.
But being on this Hands Free journey has taught me something. And that is this: Sometimes it is necessary to go deeper. Sometimes it is necessary to go where it gets a little uncomfortable. Sometimes the brutally honest truth is the one you don’t want to acknowledge, but NEED to acknowledge. These kind of truths are the ones that make me pause and take a deep breath before I hit “publish.”
But that is how I grow. That is how I become a more loving and connected parent, spouse, and human being. That is how I get one step closer to grasping what really matters on this journey.
So here’s the honest truth. And by putting it out there, I begin the process of change, growth, and improvement.
I am talking about The Fake Glance. And for quite some time, even as I began my Hands Free journey to grasp what really matters, I used it. I used The Fake Glance until my four-year-old called me out on it.
And I am thankful for the day she did, and maybe you will be, too.
This is my story…
My four-year-old daughter is still very much in the “Watch me, Mama” stage. She wants me to watch her slide down the slide. She wants me to watch her jump on the couch. She wants me to watch her make the ever-challenging letter “W.” She even wants me to watch her put raspberries on her fingers while she imitates Ursula the Sea Witch.
So when my daughter would say, “Watch me, Mama,” I would glance up. I would give her ten to fifteen seconds, (which I justified by saying that was more than I used to give her in my Pre-Hands Free days), and then I would go back to the task at hand. And since I am being honest, sometimes I looked away from my child to go back to looking at something truly insignificant on my Blackberry. Oh yes, The Truth Hurts.
Somewhere along the lines of one Fake Glance after another Fake Glance, my daughter began saying something more than simply, “Watch me, Mama.”
My observant little girl who knew her mama was faking it said, “Watch me, Mama. And watch me the whole entire time, Mama.”
Watch me the whole entire time.
This is opposed to, “Watch me for a split second and then go back to what you are doing and miss the part I wanted you to see, Mama.”
How’s that for a Wake Up Call?
Suddenly I fast-forwarded ten years. If I keep up The Fake Glance, will she even ask me to look at her life anymore?
Or will she realize that she can’t compete with the daily distraction that consumes her mother’s focus and attention and simply give up?
I already traveled down that dismal path in “Someone Will Notice,” if you want to know the painfully honest answer to that question.
Granted, part of me wanted to shrug off my daughter’s new phrase by thinking, “What a new cute saying!” or “What a funny little girl I have!”
But my Hands Free Inner voice (the one that doesn’t take any BS) said this, “Listen up, Rachel. You have just been given a gift. Don’t waste it.”
I immediately started doing something I hadn’t done since my children were babies.
When my daughter said, “Watch me,” I stopped what I was doing and sat down. I gave her my full attention to watch the complete action she wanted me to see in its entirety.
The first few times I did this she seemed surprised. She peered into my face as if to see what was going on. It appeared as if she thought I was sick and needed to take a seat and catch my breath.
But once I smiled and said, “O.K! I am ready,” she looked excited. In fact, she looked more than happy; she looked overjoyed.
I remember the time she showed me how she could run half way across the kitchen floor in her pajamas with attached “feet,” fall to her knees and slide the rest of the way across.
Seeing her slide across the kitchen floor may not be on my “Top 10 things I want to see in my lifetime,” but it was important to her, and I knew she wanted me to see the whole ENTIRE thing.
In my front row seat at the kitchen table, I applauded. I cheered. I complimented her form. I praised her distance. I marveled at her bravery.
Then she did something I was not expecting. She came over and wrapped her little arms around my neck and whispered, “Thank you, Mama.”
I was sold.
The Fake Glance was officially buried.
The Authentic Gaze was embraced.
Instead of taking a quick (and often forgettable) mental snap shot of my daughter’s “performances,” I vowed to start taking video. Invaluable video. Setting the lens of my eye on one beautiful moment to capture forever.
In fact, one of my favorite invaluable videos was taken recently when my husband asked my four-year-old to make her own NCAA picks.
He went through each college or university but instead of saying “Michigan or Tennessee,” he said, “M or T?”
There were A LOT of picks to be made. And she was into it. I could’ve easily slipped away unnoticed to straighten up the house, do some laundry, or catch up on email. But instead I sat there and the invaluable video began rolling.
I witnessed her choosing the letter R over the letter N because “Rachel” starts with R.
I watched as her eyes rolled upward and scratch her curly head as she thought through each “important” decision carefully.
I heard a short story about her Uncle Brad triggered by the selection of the letter B.
I witnessed her finding she had the power to change her mind and select a different letter by saying, “No, I don’t want M. Actually, I choose S.”
I watched my husband’s surprised facial expressions as she amazingly managed to select a mighty fine final four line up of Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.
And the background of this invaluable video was my laughter, my joy, and the sound of my heart beating with happiness.
I often say I am simply the messenger on this Hands Free journey. And today the message that comes from something far greater than me is this: Bury the Fake Glance. Adopt the Authentic Gaze. Go beyond the mental snap shot and roll the video. Capture the once-in-a-lifetime moments that develop in front of your eyes. These are the moments you will play over and over in your mind when you are old and gray. These are the moments you will tragically miss if you look away.
And the side bonus is the fact that the star of the show will thank you…in ways you cannot begin to imagine.
Do you have any habits that could fall into the category of The Fake Glance? Think about your daily interactions with your loved ones, friends or colleagues. Is there something you do that they could call you out on? Why not call yourself out? Bury the old habit, the one that prohibits connection, and embrace a new one…one that creates the lasting bonds to a beautiful relationship. Please click the “share” button if you think greater personal connection is a message worth spreading.