Friday, May 14, 2010

Do Your Eyes Smile, Mom?

I heard a story this week that has really given me cause to reflect on my demeanor, especially my demeanor from my children's perspective. The radio station I listen to was taking calls about things children have said to their parents that served as wake-up calls. Our children often have a way of saying things with such innocence, yet unexpected wisdom, that it can catch us off guard and really cause us to think. I'm sure most parents could recall countless comments, questions, or remarks from their children that have done just that. The particular story that struck a chord with me was about a 4 yr. old daughter who said something profound to her mother. Her mother had been widowed and left with two young children. Her grief was consuming her and making it difficult to care for her children with any joy. One day, the 4 yr. old crawled up on her mother's lap and said to her, "Mommy, your eyes don't smile anymore." Wow! That was, I'm sure, heartbreaking for her to hear. And, it served as a wake-up call to that mother that she had to get her life together and reclaim her personal joy so that she could raise those two beautiful children.

I've spent several days since hearing this story thinking about it over and over and over. I haven't experienced any trauma close to what that particular mother experienced. I cannot pretend to relate to that situation. However, I can relate to allowing the circumstances and struggles of life to overwhelm you. As parents, when we are overwhelmed with difficult circumstances, relationships, or transitions our children not only can sense it--they can see it! Don't fool yourself. Your children see the struggle when they look in your eyes.

Now, there must be a balance here. We cannot expect our young children to comprehend the complexities of our adult struggles. Moreover, it is simply unfair to expect them to. Children should be able to enjoy life--to sing, play, and have fun! This world is filled with plenty of evil, anger, corruption, and disappointment; most parents hope to shield their young children as long as possible. However, it is unrealistic for us as parents to go through very difficult or trying times without allowing our children to see any of this personal struggle. Perhaps, a certain amount of transparency is a healthy teaching tool. We are human before we are parents, after all. And, we should train our children to move through their lives with a healthy level of emotional maturity. This maturity will not development successfully if they never see it modeled before them. Okay, off of that soap box.

Back to what really struck me about that story. The entire demeanor of that mother was unmistakably noticed by her daughter and was most definitely affecting her. I believe we have this impact on our children, whether we purpose to or not. They observe us--every part of us. They notice our facial expressions, our tone of voice, how we react to others. Children are very attentive and can be quite perceptive. Therefore, it's important that we are careful how we handle our emotions in the presence of our children. We don't want to burden them with struggles they cannot understand. And, I think it's crucially important to exhibit a presence and a demeanor of peace and joy for our children. While we may be unhappy about specific circumstances, or we may be uncertain of the outcome to some of life's tough decisions or transitions, we should hope to pass on a sense of security to our children. I believe that security can best be felt by children if they know that there is joy and peace in their home. Truly, if joy and peace are in their home, then they should regularly see it in the eyes of their parents. They should see our eyes smile--at least most of the time.

As I said earlier, this particular story struck me so much personally. I never want my children to look into my eyes and not find the security that they so desperately need. The eyes are the windows to our soul and our children know this instinctively. They are looking for our eyes to smile!

On a much lighter note, my home is often filled with silly kid songs. My kids make up some doozies, as well as enjoy some familiar oldies but goodies. At my son's preschool, they sing songs regularly. The teachers put new words to familiar tunes to help the children remember certain things about which they're learning. I have done the same thing with my recent lesson. Remember the song, "Do your ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro?" Well, I'm a goofy mom so here is my rendition (about smiling eyes). I imagine my child singing this to me so I will never forget the importance of my demeanor around them.
Do your eyes smile, Mom?
Do they light up at my glance?
Can you make them sparkle?
Can you make them dance?
Do they reflect the love & joy that you say you have inside?
Do your eyes smile, Mom?
I hope your eyes are smiling today. Someone needs them to be.

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