She breathes through her nose when she’s having a strong emotion. Short, sharp exclamation points that punctuate her just ten months of life.

Her brother yells, “Wa-hoo!” with accompanying right-hand fist pump when a surprise unfolds, there’s ice cream in a cone for dessert, or we agree to let him watch Pingu.

His brother at the age of six still hugs like a baby monkey – face scrunched up behind his glasses; arms and legs wrapped vice-like around the middle. He hugs and it’s the best kind of Heimlich for dislodging worry.

I am working on the discipline of seeing my children.

Not how cute they are, or how badly behaved, or how snazzily dressed. But to see them with attention to personality detail.

“To love a [child] well, we must become a student of him. To see him, we must observe him, consider him, perceive him, and learn him. This involves lots of listening, patience, and attentiveness.

The nature of seeing combines three elements:

  1. a curiosity about who he is
  2. an appreciation for who he is
  3. a vision for who he will become”

~ Wild Things, The Art of Nurturing Boys

I squint one eye and tilt the kaleidoscope of their lives up to the light.

There are quirks more significant than the freckle at the base of Jackson’s neck worth noticing. Now that I’m looking for them, I see. How he is quick to defend me, quick to notice someone who is hurt on their insides. He is Jesus introspective and sees heaven in the simplest answers. This boy who is six and seems like he’s going on twelve – how hard I have to work to catch up and listen to all that he doesn’t say.

Micah – my warrior with the aching heart – I am learning to see him through the prism of how much I like him. Because understanding him is a braille like experience that takes tender fingers reaching out to read him. I must hug him and hold him and stroke his forehead in order to see his heart. Tender wrapped in layers of short temperedness. I need to peel back ever so gently to expose the mass of feelings that beat in him.

To give these boys weight in the world I must show that I am interested in the gravity that pulls them to me. That I don’t take it for granted. That I will study it with the white heat of interest that any scientist brings to his research.

I tell myself this on the nights when I’ve been anything but interested. On the nights when I’ve been tired and irritable and unwilling to coax meaning out of their own short tempers. When we’ve barked at one another and gone to bed blind. I lie and replay the film strip of everything I did wrong and was too stubborn to do right.

Some bedtimes are like that.

But then morning comes with grace and we all try again.

Even when I forget I must still remember over and over again that my tone will set the beat and the background and the melody for their day. Because as much as I want to see them first, they will always echo me. They see how I live more than they hear what I say.

So on my busy days – on the days when laptop and phone and Skype and IM all scream for my attention – I will make moments for mute. I will notice though the chaos that spins around me. I will notice the things my boys don’t say. And I will work hard to put it into words for them.

The mother-gift – interpreting for our children. And promising them we understand.

No. Maybe it’s just promising that we will do the hard work of understanding.

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