To see or not to see (our loved ones) – that’s the question
Being people with that gift of having two eyes to see, this may seem like a funny title.
“Of course I see my loved ones! I certainly see (some of us need glasses to do so clearly) my children and my spouse!”
But just ask yourself, did you always feel seen by the people important to you? I mean…really seen? Were you recognized and valuated for who you are?
When I talk with my friend Alexis, we are pounding over that issue a lot.
She and her husband have a “nice” marriage. They don’t fight much, he’s not abusive in any way, he loves her, provides for her.
However, in her recent post on this blog she still describes it like that:
“This feeling of being seen, understood and taken seriously was incredibly beautiful…”
“Your warmth and empathy magically attracted me. I had never seen a man who could make such dazzling compliments, they seemed so sincere, so serious and they touched me so much. I felt seen, appreciated and your honoring attitude in so many things touched me again and again!”
….” I’ve come to realize that I was so hungry for your approval, acceptance, love and admiration, because I have not gotten this in my relationship with my husband for a long time….
(To see her whole letter describing her situation, go here. )
How can that be? How can she have that need unmet, even though she’s married to a good man, who wants the best for her?
The answer is probably not that simple, as different layers of reality are coming together. The past of Alexis, when she didn’t have a father who truly saw her. Her husband’s past, both of their personalities, their belief-systems…
But what I want to consider here, is the fact that her husband is a good man, he is the best husband to her he knows to be.
Isn’t it the same in parenting?
We try to be the best parents we know to be.
Many times we are lacking in understanding and “know how”, we transmit who we are – and also our own lack of knowing that we are valuable and precious.
These are pretty deep issues we need to work on in our own lives, in order to truly be these successful parents.
My own father’s message he transmitted to me, through his general attitude of life and by the way he looked at me, was:
“I am worthless. I am a failure. But so are you.“
It took me many years to recover from that message, to confront these lies with God’s truth.
I went through a large process before getting married. I Today, I have a husband who showers me daily with his love, acceptance and happiness about who I am. I can look into his eyes at any time and all I see is acceptance and love… and this for 9 years now. I know I can transmit a very different message of life to my children … by who I am, by who we are as parents.
This is the deep, life-changing way of transmitting our children the message of being seen, appreciated, loved and set free for who they are. This happens by having a reality of life that shows them this truth in every possible way. With our attitudes, our looks, our words.
But what I would like to do in this article is to talk about different ways we try to implement this truth into our children, while we still miss the point.
Not in a way that it is harmful – (If it’s not the only way we try to do it) – but I want to show you how we can do it more effectively.
There is more to it than simply affirming my children.
if I am sitting behind my computer, writing an article for this website and a child comes to my side, showing me his/her drawing.
By the fact that I am interrupted in my flow to write, but still want to be a present mother, I give a quick glimpse to that drawing, mumbling: «Oh yes, I love it, very nice »… fixing my eyes again on that screen, to continue writing.
Of course I could do worse. I could snap at them : Don’t bother me, don’t you see I’m occupied?!
Yet, in both ways, I didn’t «see them».
There is more than spending time with my beloved ones
When I spend time with my children in the living room, when I am nursing my baby, when I’m being intimate with my husband or when I’m at the dinner table with my family…. I can do all those things without seeing them.
I can be physically there, do all those things, yet I can have my mind somewhere completely different. I can even fix myself on my phone or other media instead of being truly present.
I’ve done it all.
There is more than «treating all my children alike».
I sometimes leave the cups from lunch on the table, wanting to re-use them again for a snack mid-afternoon . My four year old often complains that he wants another cup, a fresh one. The others have no problem with using the ones from lunchtime. Now, I can tell him: „stop that whining and complaining and use this cup, just like the others!!“
However, knowing this little guy of mine, I realize that he‘s greatly preoccupied with beauty, cleanness and aesthetics… Therefore I smile and tell him: «of course you can have another cup!»
There is more than applying educational recipes on my children :
We all know that kids can behave in ways we simply don’t want them to behave.
Hitting, biting, being rude, slapping doors, responding in a rude way, and continually annoying the siblings… we all don’t want our children to behave that way. We can’t tolerate it and then we discipline or reprove them, in order that they stop to behave that way.
But most of the time, there is more to it. None of my children would ever behave that way “just for fun, in order to purposefully annoy me, or to try to make my life difficult”.
If one of our children is having a really bad attitude, the question arises by itself: What’s the matter? What is it that you are trying to express by misbehaving in such a way?
There is always an answer. The last time it happened that child got sick a day later…. And we knew why he had been whining, complaining and purposefully annoying his siblings the day before.
Like I wrote above, I believe each one of us has this deep longing inside to be seen, recognized, valuated and understood for who we truly are. We want to be cherished and believed in. We want to know that we are enough. That we are capable. That we are unique and loved just the way we are.
This is true for ourselves, our spouse and our children.
They don’t want to be seen through a label, a diagnosis,a judgmental attitude or with expectations to perform. Children (and our spouse) don’t want to disappoint us. They don’t want to fail us, get on our nerves or make our lives difficult.
In our family, we invest a lot of time and effort to create an environment of acceptance. We invest a lot of effort to honor each other for who we truly are. We want to get to know our children, in order that they can, time and again, hear from us, how we cherish them and how they are valuable to us. We also want them to see it in our eyes, every time they look into them. We want them to be filled with that deep knowledge that they are seen, recognized, valuated and understood.
We want them to know, that we are happy with them, that we enjoy to spend time with them, that they are a blessing to us.
We are working on our own growth as individuals. We are supportive of each other – as spouses in our marriage and as parents of our children – so we all can become the best we can be.