18 Jan 2012

Sometimes the only way to read our kids is by braille

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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{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1
  2. 2

    Its lovely that you are taking time to really get to know your children and not just give the standard/expected care like some parents do just to keep a child quiet etc.
    Super photo’s too !
    I often wondered looking at my baby boy what his traits would be and how he will develop… would he take my personality or his dads? interesting thoughts, lovely post.
    Jennie. x

  3. 3

    My thoughts exactly this morning, when I let my fatigue dictate my attitude. Thank you for the encouragement!

  4. 4

    One day you will look into the faces of grown men and see all those things lived out. I am taken by surprise sometimes, when I look at them and catch a glimpse of the little boys they once were.
    You are a wise Mama.

  5. 5

    Here’s to hoping I’m half the parent you are someday. =)

  6. 6

    Because understanding him is a braille like experience that takes tender fingers reaching out to read him…
    the heart of understanding our children is exactly this…
    a blessed post! Thanks for sharing!

  7. 7

    It is hard work, trying to understand these complex, uniquely created little ones formed in the mind of an infinitely creative God. Actually it’s impossible work which keeps me clinging to Christ and His grace.

  8. 8

    This discipline of seeing never ends in our children’s lives. We live half-way around the world from our two grown daughters and much of the time my ears become the “seeing”. God speaks to me through the the words I hear them say and the sound of their voices, helping me know what to say and more importantly what not to say as they share their lives and their struggles. I thank God each day for them and for the beautiful women they have become.
    I’m so grateful God is showing you how to see your children’s strengths and the miraculous way He has formed each one. They are blessed to have a mom who is so teachable and loves them for who God made them to be.

  9. 9


  10. 10

    What a wonderful insightful post! My boys are much bigger, but it is never too late to try to parent better and “see” them more fully. Thanks for sharing your life and what God is doing through you as a parent. It is a blessing!

  11. 11

    Beautifully, beautifully written! I love the way you put these precious sentiments to words! I too, have a son who hugged like a baby monkey, and I completely understand the “Heimlich for dislodging worry” line. But my baby monkey is no longer a baby monkey anymore. He is 13 years old now. So savor every millisecond of those precious hugs, for all too soon they are gone and replaced with quick, “I really love you, Mom, but my friends are watching” hugs. You have encouraged me to savor the fleeting time we have left, before they are fully grown. Thank you, and God bless!

  12. 12

    You so beautifully put into words what every mother wants from herself…wants for them. Thank you for another day of inspiration!

  13. 13

    What you love, you study. Gazing at a work of art helps us learn something about both the work and the artist. Same with kids– intricate creations with a great creator. The experience of parenting tells us a lot about God’s relationship with us, both the incandescent love and the exasperation. And with it, the eternality.

  14. 14

    Not all parents take the time to really “get to know” their children, which is very sad. What you are doing is a wondrous thing, and you are forming a bond with your children that can never be broken. They will make wonderful members of society because of the quality of life they are enjoying through you now. You have my admiration for taking the time with them.

  15. 15

    Spot on. And, in some ways, I think this might come more naturally when parenting an adopted child. Because there are NO assumptions, and every day is one of huge discovery. You don’t assume their personalities will be like your husband’s, or that they’ll be gifted in art like your sister, or whatever. What a beautiful reminder to wait expectantly, watching to see their life stor unfold.

  16. 16

    This is probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve read on parenting. Saving this to mull over and remember again and again. Thank you, Lisa-Jo, for sharing this vision with us. Too often we worry so much about teaching our kids that we forget to study them. And how are we to teach if we haven’t first studied?

  17. 17

    Your children are so blessed to have a mother who recognizes and tries to read and understand them : ) Keep reading them, Lisa-Jo…it is a beautiful and important work that you do.

  18. 18

    I really loved this. A whole lot.

  19. 19

    Thanks for this this morning. Was especially perfectly timed as it was one of “those” mornings where my fingers were doing more of pushing than Braille reading. sigh

    Thank goodness there is grace…and chocolate chip cookies waiting for both us us. :)

  20. 20
    Vicki Fuller says:

    Seriously, this is the sweetest reminder of grace and the patience God has for us. And it makes me feel beyond words the importance that God has given me the opportunity to be a mother. I love my kids with every breath, but there are so many ways to show it. “They see how I live more than they hear what I say.” Wow. So true. Thank you~

  21. 21

    thank you… oh, thank you. mama to a 19 month old and a 2 month old, and your words truly encouraged me to SEE through different lenses, especially on the tantrum throwing, not enough words to express (them or me), will i make it through this day, lying in a bed of regret kind of days. thank you.

  22. 22

    Thanks for recommending the Wild Things book! I have 2 girls, then a boy, then another girl…and sometimes I struggle to understand my son. This book is just what I need! I am only on the 3rd chapter, but I’ve already learned so much. I have it checked out from our local library right now, but I plan to buy it…and I’m sure I’ll reference it frequently as my son gets older. Thanks again!

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