My 8 year old couldn’t settle in to sleep in her own room last night so I let her snuggle with me in my bed while I did some late night work by the light of the lamp on my nightstand.
“Hey Mom,” she said with her head cuddled into my shoulder and arms wrapped around mine as she watched me type away on my laptop.
“Can you explain your work to me?”
I was surprised by her question. We had talked about my work several times (because it’s a question she asks a lot) but I figured there was a reason she was asking again. I decided to show her a little differently, and I pulled up my author page on Her View From Home.
“These are all articles – or stories – that Mommy has written,” and I scrolled down the dozens of pieces I’ve been blessed to have featured on the site.
One caught her eye — a piece titled “To My Rule Following Child… I See You.”
“Is that about me?” she asked.
“It is, honey. And I’d love to read it to you if that’s ok with you.”
I took a deep breath as I clicked on the title and she cuddled in closer in anticipation. I had written the piece over a year ago — stemmed from some guilt I felt for the attention that her two younger siblings demanded of me, that often left her rule-following self waiting in the wings until I was available to help her, read to her and simply spend time with her.
In the article, I list out my profession to her that I DO see the things she does. That I DO notice that she tends to always do the right thing. That I DO know that it can be hard sometimes to be the kid who is always doing good and wondering if it’s seen.
They were all things I had voiced to her before, but reading it in this way seemed to affect her.
“Wow, Mom,” she said, “you notice all of those things even though you’re in the kitchen cooking or looking at your phone all of the time?”
She dropped the mic while my heart dropped to the floor.
My initial instinct was to get defensive. But I quickly rerouted those thoughts to ones of taking ownership.
Because she wasn’t wrong.
I’m in the kitchen cooking and cleaning a lot. I’m on my phone a lot – not always out of necessity. And despite constantly telling her how proud I am of her, thanking her for her help around the house, reminding her how proud we are that she’s so kind, etc…
She was telling me that she needs more than words. She needs ME.
“Is that how you feel, honey?” I said to give myself some time to come up with what I was going to say next.
“Yeah, Mom. Sometimes I just want you to watch me dance or sit with me on the couch you’re always looking at your phone or doing something.”
I pulled her in tighter.
“Thank you for being honest with me,” I told her. “You’re right. Mommy is on her phone too much and I need to do a better job of putting it away more often. I don’t ever want you to feel like I don’t see you or am not paying attention to you. But it sounds like you feel that way… and I’m sorry for making you ever think I don’t notice you. Mommy is going to try harder, ok?”
“Thanks Mom,” she said as she closed her eyes.
The guilt came in as I sat there in the silence. And I let it. For a minute.
And then I let gratitude happen.
Gratitude for the moment. Gratitude for the fact that she knew she could be honest. Gratitude for the opportunity to grow as her parent. Gratitude for being called out on something that I kind of already knew I needed to be called out on.
Gratitude for the chance to be her mom.
And as her mom, I will make mistakes. I will disappoint her and I will not meet her needs all of the time.
But when it happens and she voices it … I will listen. I will show her how to own a mistake. I will praise her for talking to me about it because I never want her to stop talking to me about those things… and then I will show her that I care by doing something about it.
I will be better. I will do better.
I won’t just write about how I see her.I will show her that I do.
I’ll put my phone down and watch her dance.