My father died four and a half years ago. Over those days of grief and togetherness, my two brothers were asked by relatives—separately, without the other in the room—what they will miss most about our father. Both men gave the same answer. Word for word.
My brothers both said that what they will miss most about our father is the delight on his face when they walked into the room.
Quick back story about these brothers of mine. They are prototypical guys' guys. Men who would rather talk about their trucks than their feelings. Men who would rather watch sports than a romantic comedy. Men who keep their feelings close to their chests. I found it incredibly touching that their fondest memory of our dad was the light in his eyes when he looked at them.
But it makes total sense, doesn't it?! It is pretty much the bottom line of being human.
We want to be seen. We want to matter.
We want others to want to be near us. We want those things when we are little kids, and we want them when we are full grown adults.
In 2000, Toni Morrison did an interview with Oprah and talked about the parenting mindset she had for a long time. When her kids walked into the room, she would look them over, ensuring that their hair was combed and their clothes were neat. At some point she realized that she was missing what really mattered, which was showing, on her outside, the love she so clearly felt for them on her inside. She challenged parents to reflect on this question: “Does your face light up when your kids come into the room?"
Much has been written about the amount of pressure that parents feel today.
Many of us work longer hours than our parents did, and when we are home, it's all too easy for our heads to be full of a myriad of stressful thoughts. Family dinners can be few and far between. And then there are our handy-dandy devices which seem to pull us to different corners of our homes. Even amid this hustle and bustle, I feel clear we can take up Toni Morrison's challenge. We can find the few moments it takes each day to mindfully and intentionally convey to our kids exactly how we feel about them.
In my new book, Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want, I write about the importance of “little p presence," which I define as showing up for small moments of connection. Let yourself be inspired by my father and Toni Morrison (oh how I love putting the two of them in a sentence together) and take a little p presence challenge. For the next seven days, at every departure and reunion, catch your kids' eyes and allow your face to register the positive emotions you are feeling about them. Take note of what happens to the vibe in your house when you do this consistently.
- How does your mood shift?
- What do you notice in your kids' attitudes?
Feeling deeply seen is, without a doubt, what your kids need from you most of all. They need it more than help with math homework, more than private violin lessons, and more than broccoli. Your kids want to light you up. Your kids need to feel like the apple of your eye.
This article was originally published on Psychology Today.