* I wrote this post in May. I’ve thought about it nearly daily since I wrote it. This weekend, while in Tampa with Florida Youth Soccer Association Region C, I had some conversations with leaders who are concerned about kids really being seen and understood in the youth sports landscape. It got me to thinking.
“Reed, maybe you should share your thoughts on seeing kids for who they really are”. (Yes I talk to myself…don’t we all?).
Here are my thoughts on being present, intentional, and seeing the children we impact daily in our lives. Choose to leave a positive legacy.
Last night was strange. It had been a long couple of weeks. A roller coaster ride of some amazingly good things happening in our life with some typical “gut punch” low moments that remind me to take life one day at a time, cherish what I can, and move on from what ails me.
So, last night was after a day that started with some really great moments of serendipity and ended with an unbelievably sore lower back and some bad news (nothing too terrible but enough to make you say “geez, just give us a break already”.) Granted it is all perspective. If I were really on the side of a mountain we would have good steps forward and moments of treachery. You learn to adapt.
I was done. I was simply “done”, as I said to my wife. So we were sitting around the fire pit (at our new house trying to relax. My wife and I had been trying to carve a few moments of quiet together without spending any money the last few days. In a new place where we are all not on top of each other (5 people and a very loving and clingy dog in a shoe box will do that), we kept trying to move to quiet places to steal time, but our family is so close, kids and dogs would follow us.
Instead of getting upset at not having alone time, we leaned into it. We let them do their thing and just sat and listened. My youngest sat down next to me at one point and everyone ventured off. The two of us were alone. We are rarely alone. The boys being so close in age, being in the same school, in the same activities, and sharing a bedroom means they are never one on one with me. This time, though, it was just Cam and I.
He started telling me stories. He shared Instagram funnies. He grabbed his drumsticks and played his new songs for me on the top of the fire pit (don’t worry, it is one of those tables with a pit in the middle…he was not “playing with fire”). I lost track of time. I lost track of place. I was only in those moments with him. For what felt like the first time in his entire life, I was “seeing” him.
I was really seeing him. For all he was. This funny, witty, energetic, old soul, misunderstood, deep feeling, expressive boy looking for a world that would simply understand and love him for who he was. I stopped feeling impatience that the conversation was silly and I had work to do. I stopped feeling anxious at how much energy he had (it helps when you are no longer in a shoe box with space to be emotive). I stopped trying to “hush” him for fear of being too loud for the neighbors that shared walls on each side of us (now we had a big, silent backyard with neighbors more than 100 feet from us).
I just sat there, in almost total silence, for what seemed like a lifetime, listening to him and seeing him. I was afraid to talk. I was so tired and out of it, I was afraid I wouldn’t make sense. I was so in awe of him, I was afraid to stop him. Have you ever watched a hummingbird hover near a feeder in this beautiful, powerful, majestic display of nature at its best and feared startling it because you never wanted the moment to end? That was me watching my son.
I was feeding his soul. Every moment that he continued without me stopping him, hushing him, sighing loudly out of frustration, or glancing at my phone distractedly was fuel to his soul. He was picking up steam like a locomotive going downhill and was unfolding into his most genuine “Cam”. Each passing moment he unfurled his own wings and showed who he really was without anyone or anything telling him he was different, he was in the wrong, he needed to stop/be quiet/sit down/ or go ‘burn off energy’. He was totally evolving in front of me as this amazing human being.
I saw him. Everything about him. Every facet of what made him so amazing. Right there in front of me. I saw his mom in him. That vivacious love of life. The effortless effervescence. The infectious laugh. Those radiant eyes of wonder and joy. The smile. I love my wife for all the things that make her so unique and for what she thinks makes her different. I now saw that in my son. What he thinks has made him so different from his classmates and his friends, and what he thinks is some kind of unfortunate, and uninvited disadvantage, I see as what makes him so special and so very perfect.
After a while he got to playing with the dog. Throwing a tennis ball over and over again for her to chase. She crashed around the yard and into my chair. He tossed it crooked, sometimes sideways. He laughed, yelled, and danced around with this unbridled joy. For two years he couldn’t do that. We had no yard. We had no space. We had neighbors. He must sit still in class, he is too loud, he “acts like he has had caffeine and sugar for breakfast”. For two years he has had to stifle his true essence to fit in that damned little box that sports, school, and society have slammed down around him. Not last night!
He looked at me at one point with a sheepish look. I am certain he was waiting to be admonished or barked at for one of the various infractions he has “committed” over the last few years. I simply said, “I see you”.
If you watch the movie Avatar, you know “I see you” means “I love you” in the language of the tall, blue beings. I see you for who you are and I love you for who you are. I see you, Cameron.
Don’t you dare change for those parents whose kids are not like you. Don’t you dare stop being you to fit some societal restriction that says kids must act a certain way. Don’t you dare stifle that spirit for some teacher or coach who cannot adapt to you. You make them see you for who you are, son. In fact, to all my children: you are you and you make the world see the real you. If they can’t, it is their epic loss of an amazing soul who could have transformed their lives.
It should be on us adults to adapt to the kids to be intentional with them at all times and to get to know and see their true selves. We need to stop squeezing them into our boxes and let them unfold into what they were meant to be. Stop looking at them and trying to fix them, change them, create them, and see them exactly as they are.
If others can’t see you, my sons and my daughter, know that I do. In the end, the only thing that matters is “I see you”. I truly see you now. I am sorry that I never quite saw you in the past. But today, I see you.