Eyes Wide Shut

86282397At a barbecue the other evening, a friend commented on how gentle and sweet my nine year-old was with her three year-old twins. I may have snorted. It’s possible I rolled my eyes. I may have even started to debate the point with her, because after all, the only younger person I see him interact with on a regular basis is his younger brother and let’s be honest, that interaction usually takes the form of in-your-face-screaming, torturous teasing, WWF wresting moves and generalized ass-like behavior. But before I could crack wise, before I could launch into a hundred stories of the way he makes his brother’s life the 8th circle of kindergarten hell, a funny thing happened. I took a step back and looked at my son through my friend’s eyes.

As parents, we often get the worst of our kids. The tired, hungry, cranky, frustrated, bored, pain in the ass bits. There are long stretches when it feels like all we get is the worst of our kids; when from sun up to sundown it is endless negotiation tactics, refereeing, moderating, cajoling, bribing, pleading, and counting down the minutes until bedtime. But as my friend’s casual statement showed, others see our children through a different lens, from a different perspective. Is the image our children present to us as parents more accurate? Or is the reflection they present to the rest of the world the one to be trusted?

They’re both valid of course, mirror images of the same object. While my eldest son is a typical older brother toward his sibling, pushing boundaries and learning how much he can poke and prod a six year-old before he is on the receiving end of a frustrated six-year-old wallop, he is gentle and kind with his twin cousins and the younger siblings of his friends. While he screams at me when things don’t go the way he wants, I hear constantly from his teachers that he has a role as peacemaker among his peers, soothing potentially volatile situations with his even handedness.  The same holds true for my younger son. I see him as a loather of mornings, hater of Lego tidying, someone who goes to great lengths to let you know how much he disdains being told what to do. His teachers see him as reflective and responsible, others see him as generous and compromising. What to me comes across as stubbornness is seen to others as independence and capability.

It’s easy to get stuck in a holding pattern with your children, to get sidetracked by the negative. It is easy to start to see the annoying, bratty, hair pulling, aggressive behavior as the norm and lose sight of the whole picture. We get so caught up in negative traits, the ones they unleash upon us as parents with such ferocity, that we sometimes forget that children are more than just a single trait. We fall into a habit of parenting with our eyes wide shut.

article-2104579-11D92A32000005DC-960_634x865It was nice to watch my son play with my friend’s twins, to see him through her eyes. It was nice to see him outside the framework of our own home and family. It was nice to be reminded that he is more than just the pain-in-the-ass big brother I get to see. It was good for me to open my eyes a little wider, to let my pupils expand and take in a bit more of what my son has to offer. It was a good reminder to keep my eyes wide open, because only when they are open will I be able to appreciate the kaleidoscope of images that he presents to both me and the world.

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12 thoughts on “Eyes Wide Shut

  1. Deirdre Gallagher June 6, 2014 / 5:26 pm

    Sounds like he’s doing his job as a big brother. . .that is being a pain in the ass! 🙂 In all seriousness, we are so deep in the day to day of what they are doing (wrong, possibly?) that we can’t see how great they really are. I have girls, 18 and 15. . and I have to force myself to step back and see how wonderful they truly are! Good work Dina!

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    • dhonour June 6, 2014 / 6:40 pm

      Thanks, Deirdre. He is definitely doing a good job at the pain in the ass big brother portion of his job. He must have learned that from his mother, who was a pain in the ass big sister. But it’s nice to look at them from the point of view of others every now and again and think, just for a moment mind you, that perhaps you aren’t screwing everything up royally.

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    • dhonour June 6, 2014 / 6:38 pm

      Thanks, Elyse. I need to get a rubber band to snap on my own wrist when I forget, I think.

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  2. s. asher sund June 9, 2014 / 1:15 am

    a very honest, conscious-parenting piece… and a good reminder not only in parenting but in life, to keep opening our eyes in new ways

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    • dhonour June 10, 2014 / 7:10 pm

      Thank you. Easier in prose than it is in practice, of course.

      Like

  3. Draws Shoots and Leaves June 9, 2014 / 9:15 am

    I could really relate to your post, as I am a mother of three boys (now grown up men), and I was always getting reports back of how helpful, polite and generally nice they were, which was not always my experience at home! They have all turned out to be gentle, peaceful men of whom I am really proud. Hang on in there, you are doing something right, even if sometimes mothering seems like a long hard struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dhonour June 10, 2014 / 7:12 pm

      You should feel proud! Raising respectful, polite human beings is an achievement. Now, if you tell me they put the toilet seat down every time I’ll be in awe and bow down to you. You are right, mothering does seem like a long, hard slog sometimes and then others, it seems like they are growing so quickly.

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      • Draws Shoots and Leaves June 12, 2014 / 11:33 pm

        No chance, re toilet seat! But you can’t have everything……… And enjoy your lovely boys, the years when they are little really do fly past.

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  4. Veronica Haidar June 9, 2014 / 4:13 pm

    This is a great post. I like to think I get on with most people, but still find my relationship with my sister fraught!

    More generally, I think that when people get together, a sort chemistry happens that influences each person making them subtly different in the context of each different relationship. Some people bring out my funny side, others bring out my defensive side, or my caring side. Each of these people experiences me slightly differently, and no doubt it’s the same with our children. I find it fascinating to see how my children interact with others and how these interactions bring out the various aspects of their character.

    The danger from a parenting perspective, is it’s all too easy to find yourself constantly scolding your kids for their less appealing habits. It’s nice to have an opportunity to heap praise on them from time to time!

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    • dhonour June 10, 2014 / 7:15 pm

      It’s so true, Veronica. When I remember to look at my kids for the good and not the driving me up the wall stuff, I think they’re amazing. But it’s all so easy to get caught in the trap of letting one negative trait or quirk or habit override everything else. I think you are spot on with your description of interactions between people. I know I am certain things to some people and other things to others, and vice versa. I guess the whole is the sum of the parts, like they say.

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