This idea has gotten stuck in my bonnet – this notion that my big tween/teen kids are still watching us closely, with great interest, and for big reasons.
When they were young – they were the little mimics. Their play reflected what they saw as their brains were sorting through a world vast and full of information. Their spongy brains were busy making connections and building understanding. They were also the great repeaters of what they heard – sometimes to the great embarrassment of us, those speakers of words.
It was expected behaviour – and I cherished it in them. Their constant observation put me on notice, it was a mirror. I, eventually, got better at watching my words, reigning in the unruly side of my temper, and communicating my wants and needs clearly. I was growing into my big girl parenting pants.
And in time, the kids grew more autonomous and capable. They stopped imitating me doing dishes – they started doing the dishes. They stopped parroting my words and used discretion and tact (or more accurately – they learned silence). I work instead to teach them to reign in their unruly tempers, to communicate their needs and wants clearly, all while they are growing up into their unique young adult selves. And at times it can feel like my work is coming to an end, like I have “arrived” as a parent- all big girl and parent-y.
Truth is, I may have the bulk of work done but the finishing is everything – ask any builder, carpenter, sculptor, or writer. I have a first draft, I might have a few revisions in but these people are not finished pieces of work. Nor will I be the one to refine them fully. They are and will forever be His poiema* – his craftsmanship – I acknowledge, welcome, and stand in awe of His work. But my role is not completed.
Because they are still watching. These flexible, open, wondering, hormone fueled brains are not just spongy but ravenous. Like winter trees, they are gathering up their stores, prepping to burst forth into a new season – green and tender life reaching for the light.
They are watching out of the corner of their eyes perhaps but they are watching. They are watching he and I, they are watching us with friends, they are listening in on conversations, they see how we toss our heads, and they hear us talk about them. They are watching to see who we are, how we handle ourselves, why we do things, and why we don’t do things. This is scrutiny which can be uncomfortable and somewhat recriminating.
It is more like a near peer review. They are seeing beyond the curtain of Mum and Dad, they are peering into the “who” of us because they are still making connections and building understanding except now it is about a world around them which will soon be at their disposal.
What do I want them to see which is worth emulating in their own lives?
This I am working on – I want them to see the dancing, the intentional living out of joy in life. I want them to see failure, and the rebound from it. I want them to see a worked out love which endures. I want them to see growth no matter how slow. I want them to see dreams followed despite reward. I want them to see hands labouring together out of love for others. I want to infuse their bones with laughter and silliness despite hard cold moments of reality. I want them to see hope amid grief. So many things – so little time.
But they are still watching.