Thursday, April 15, 2010

Seeing Things Through Their Eyes...

Being a stay at home mom, I am afforded many opportunities to watch my children. One of the biggest gifts in my life has been the ability to catch a glimpse every now and again, into the way my children perceive the life around them. It isn't easy. Very seldom will they come right out and tell you how what they're thinking might be different than what you think they're thinking. But if you're watching closely and listening to both what they say and what they don't say, you can kind of grasp a sense of how things come together for them.

I am fortunate enough to have a daughter who is very expressive and articulate. She often lets me know what she's thinking, feeling, wishing for, liking, not liking, etc. She enjoys talking and she's very good at expressing herself. But I also have a daughter who's more quiet, who isn't good at expressing her thoughts and feelings, and typically shuts down when the going gets tough. I often say that my Layla teaches me so much about being a better mother and in the instance, she teaches me how to watch and listen so I can better understand where she's coming from.

This tool, this ability to understand things from their point of view, has helped me tremendously in becoming a better, more compassionate mommy. It's because of this ability that I'm able to re-act less and manage more positively and more appropriately. When things start to get hairy at bedtime {which they often do}, I'm better able to resolve situations quickly without dwelling on some sort of lesson that would just be lost. I also know when are the good times to hold my ground and push the bigger issue rather than cave on something trivial. This tool also helps me to teach and plan activities for my children, knowing better how they learn and what kinds of things make sense to them. I'd like to think that it helps me acclimate them to the world, knowing when to explain things to them and knowing when to step back and let them experience it with fresh eyes.

My challenge, and what I need to work on constantly, is "listening" when the "voices" are quieter. I need to learn to be present in the off moments as well as the on. For example, the other night at dinner there was some sort of mishap. I yelled spoke to Rayne about the undesirable behavior, finished dinner, and moved on. In my eyes, the incident was behind us. However, it wasn't too long after I had begun something else that she came over to me with this note...

Holy moly...tears! Then me feeling really. bad. I had moved on, not giving a second thought to how she was still feeling about the incident. I wasn't "listening". Because if I was, I probably would've seen her sad face or noticed her uncharacteristically timid behavior. I would have noticed her looking at me just waiting for a sign that all was okay. I felt bad not only for not resolving the issue completely, but for detaching and not "listening" to what Rayne was saying afterwards.

Similarly, in the weeks prior to her birthday, Layla was off...not herself: not sleeping well, quiet, easily upset. The day after her birthday, she slept like a dream and literally came back to life. She was cheerful and animated and happy. I hadn't seen that side of Layla in quite some time and I had missed her. In the days since, she's been much the same: the happy little girl I've always known her to be. It occurred to me that perhaps she had been anxious about her birthday. As a young child who quite possible doesn't remember her previous birthday, she may not have known what turning four might entail. Would she be different? Would she feel different? Would being four mean that all of a sudden life as she knew it would be different? For my Layla who doesn't like surprises and doesn't do well with change, an impending birthday and the accompanying uncertainties about such a day could have sent her into full panic mode. Now that it's all behind us, it seems so clear. I wish that I would have "heard" her anxiety about her birthday and given her more reassurance that birthdays were all good...with very little actual change.

As a full time mom, I'm constantly striving to be better at my job. My kids are my greatest source of guidance and information. They are continually telling me how to be better at being their mom....I just need to "listen".


shelly April 15, 2010 at 7:19 PM  

being a mom is a tough job. the not knowing if you are doing things "right" is the worst for me.

i love your photos...and that note...TEARS for sure. so sweet of her :)

Camilla~ Bloom April 15, 2010 at 7:53 PM  

What a lovely post...and such a touching note.

I am having such a bad day today, tears are streaming down my face as I am prepping dinner for the umpteenth time this week...there is no use hiding it, my kids know I am tired and exhausted from the week. I feel so stretched lately as a mother(and wife)....I guess we all have those days. I guess I am having one today.
Love your honesty Maegan.
You are a wonderful mother.

Corinne April 15, 2010 at 9:07 PM  

I've got tears in my eyes from so many points in your post. That note... oh my word. It's something I work on daily - seeing life from their perspective (and my husband needs to work on it WAY more than I do, but we're getting there...)
It makes such a big difference.

Hyacynth April 15, 2010 at 9:22 PM  

This is the most complicated job in the world -- being a mother. It's hard to fulfill every aspect of the job well, especialy when you have many, varied personalities. But, you're right, listening -- stopping, pausing -- is such an important part of doing this job well. Thanks for the reminder.

Also, you are such a beautiful photographer. You capture such lovely moments.

Jamie April 15, 2010 at 9:36 PM  

That opening picture of your daughters eye - blew me away. Reminds me a bit of one of my all time favorite photos, the national geographic photo of the girl in the red hood with the beautiful green eyes.

Feather April 15, 2010 at 9:39 PM  

it is such a tough job, listening. especially when there is so much to do and remember and hear and say! your words are beautiful, and i'm sure you are a terrific mom!

Johnna Riddell April 15, 2010 at 11:50 PM  

her note brought tears to my eyes, in fact, more than that, I had a good cry...

O to retain that sensitivity and that sense of softness... we've all been there... I have yelled when I should have whispered, punished when I should have comforted and ignored when I should have had all my emotions and senses on "it". It's hard not to loose yourself sometimes ... when the world is spinning around you and there is nothing to grasp.

Rooster came down at 10pm tonight, about (literally) the 20th time he had done so, I was so mad, before he even walked in the room where I was I was telling him to "turn it around... get to bed, now" and while I wasn't yelling - since the house was asleep - I was not using a very loving tone. I came around the corner to his sad little face, his nose covered in snotty drips and his eyes, allergy puffed and red.
Needless to say, I dropped to my knees and grabbed him up. I felt 2 inches tall. I always wish I could catch myself before it gets to that point. :(
...sorry... to ramble on like that, I just meant to say, I know the feeling... I'm sending you a hug :).

That is what I love about being a SAHM, though, having all these opportunities to take part in EVERYTHING... all the firsts and all the changes. To be the one to kiss the boo boos and give out the hugs. I love "seeing" them, really seeing them.

I loved this post, Maegan. so touching and warm and honest.

You are such an amazing Mommy.


Beth Simmons April 15, 2010 at 11:59 PM  

I love your insights!

Dyche Designs April 16, 2010 at 7:47 AM  

What a beautiful post and so moving.

Micheline April 16, 2010 at 8:04 AM  

This post broke my heart all over again. I felt every misunderstanding and improperly-handled incident like I had just walked away from it. Listening has been my biggest problem as of late. I'm working on it every day but I'm not sure how well I'm doing. This post was the pep-talk that I needed to make sure that I'm doing the best I possibly can. Thanks.

PhotoPuddle April 16, 2010 at 3:41 PM  

This is a lovely post and it's given me some things to think about as my daughter gets older.

Courtney @ splashing grace April 16, 2010 at 10:28 PM  

so well written... and listening is such a huge part of mothering - we get so busy with the doing and the teaching that we forget to listen sometimes. Your post is a good reminder.

Laura April 16, 2010 at 10:49 PM  

We all have those moments; I think we've all found (or will find) those notes that make our hearts turn over.

You're so right. We have to learn to listen to them, and it's easier to listen to some than others. And that changes as they grow, too.

What a wonderful, honest post.

Courtney Corey April 17, 2010 at 10:19 PM  

LOVE the photos! You captured those moments beautifully - esp. the note! I agree with you - no one on earth has taught me more than my son.