Monday, July 27, 2015

Watch this!

Most anyplace we go, the kids want me to watch something they're doing. Sometimes it's obvious what they want me to see - a slide down a slide, walking on a balance beam, climbing something high. Sometimes it's not obvious: "watch this!" followed by an ambiguous physical action, complete with a proud smile. My internal monologue: What am I supposed to be watching? What the hell did she just do? Can I stop watching now? Oh. Is that it? Did it just happen?

Audrey: Did you see that?

me: Ehm...yes?

Of course watching is so fun when they're experiencing something for the first time. Watching Sean start to play soccer and run his heart out. Watching Audrey begin to take dance classes and enjoy figuring out the movements of her body. Watching Frankie begin to play with little figurines and talk to them or walk them around a doll house speaking gibberish to herself. The emerging personalities of our kids is a magical thing. It's easy to watch.

But other times it's exhausting. Watching Sean climb the same rock face over and over again, each time reaching the top (thank goodness without a broken bone) and wanting me to take a picture. How many pictures can I take of the same child, sitting up on the same rock face?

This watching has many motivations. I watch out of a need to protect their safety. I watch out of a desire to witness their lives: I like seeing them embark on their own personal journeys. But as a mom of three kids, it becomes overwhelming at time to keep tabs on their every movement. I'm watching for three different busy bodies on a large playground - anxiety producing when I can't find one of them. I'm watching for an argument between two siblings that's escalating so I can step in if someone's about to hit somebody else. I'm watching the bowel movements of each child to make sure they're staying regular. It's a lot to keep up with: a lot of watching.

The watching can go both ways. Audrey will watch me closely when I'm frustrated with her. I often don't know she's tracking my emotions until I get really angry, yell, and then if in the right mind, she'll try to right the situation:

Audrey: I love you, Mama.
me: (reeling from having to abandon my anger) I love you, too.
Audrey: Are you happier now?
me: This is not about being happier, Audrey. This is about you listening when I ask you to stop shoving Frances.
Audrey: (blinks) I love you, Mama.
me: Okay. Thanks. I love you, too.
Audrey: Now are you happier?

She sweetly smiles at me. Though she doesn't yet know the word manipulation, she's a master. She'll poke and prod at my disgruntled attitude until she sees that I'm not angry anymore, giving me hugs, telling me she loves me, even when she's the one who's put me in a bad mood. She watches.

She also watches out of sense of protecting her siblings' safety. We went camping in July, and Sean fell and scraped his knee pretty badly. I made the comment (to anyone who would listen) that it was a good thing Dad had packed the First Aid kit. Audrey was watching the whole time.

Audrey: It's a good thing we have the First Aid kit!
me: Yeah, thank goodness.
Audrey: Do we have a Second Aid kit?

And sometimes, I'm busy doing all this watching, tracking, recording little details in my mind, that I neglect to see the things they really want me to see. The things they wish I could see without having to tell me.

I recently cleaned out the van vacuuming it, cleaning dirty surfaces, dusting corners that never get used. I wanted the van to smell better, for one. I also wanted to find the calcified, decaying scraps of food that were long since lost to the under-carseat-netherworld. Mainly I cleaned because I wanted to move the kids into booster seats instead of little kid carseats. It was time, they're old enough, they weigh enough. So I finally bit the bullet, cleaned the whole car, made it smell good and removed the old carseats. I bought new booster seats from Target and got them all set up.

I felt good about the whole project, but I could not have foreseen their joy. They told me this was the best day of their lives. They hugged me. They thanked me over and over again. The next morning they made me cards with "Happy Supwise Day" written on them. They felt like bigger kids, more mature. Turns out they had been watching older friends and cousins ride in booster seats, and they wanted to do the same.

Though this might sound perfunctory, the whole thing was a giant leap.  It took cleaning out space in my mind and heart to see them as older kids. Me finally taking the leap to purchase new things instead of frugally holding onto the old things not wanting to part with the money.  I stumbled upon something they wished I had been watching but didn't know it.

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