At the monkey bars: “Mom, watch this!”
In the pool: “Mom, watch me.”
At the park: “Time me.”
At the beach: “Did you see that?”
This summer, I noticed how often my boys (ages 4 and 7) and nearly every other kid around us, asked directly for my attention to “watch this.” In the summer, without explicit instruction coursing through their day, my boys are free to try new things. To take risks. To try, try, try again. Like most children I know, my boys are fiercely independent on the one hand and thrive on affirmation and positive praise on the other. When they ask me to “watch this” it is their clearest and most direct way to let me know what’s important to them and that they need something or someone right now.
This was the first summer where both of my boys were water safe. Where mama could bring a book to the town pond or the local pool. Where my boys didn’t want me too close to their sand tunnels or too far that they couldn’t see me giving a thumbs up. It was liberating and also bittersweet. See, I’m in the sweet spot of parenting right now where my boys are self-driven in their interests but they still run back up the hill at the park for a hug, for me to wrap them in their hoodie towels, and for me to hand them a nectarine followed up swiftly by a chocolate chip cookie.
As they head off on their first day of school today, I wonder if they’ll feel secure enough to say to their teachers “watch this”. What will they want their teacher to watch? What if they don’t say those words, who will notice them and acknowledge their everyday stories, curiosities, and risk-taking moments? Who will let them know “I see you”?
In my work in schools this fall, I’m on the lookout for children who are trying to let us know with their words, yes, but also with their unspoken actions, gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions that they need us to “watch this”. Some of us hear those words so freely in summer. Yet, from September to June, my hunch is that we as adults have to work a little bit harder to notice the “watch this” moments that children are trying to let us in on.
Don’t we all crave those “watch this” acknowledgements from others? Today is the start of the school year in my home. It’s also my first entry of this new blog inspired by the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life community. In my own way, I suppose this blog is my attempt to reach out to other teachers, parents, and writers to say “watch this”, “read this”, “think about this”. I think every blog, tweet, Facebook, or Instagram post does the same thing. It’s our adult version of hanging upside down from the monkey bars and letting go with one hand hoping someone will notice and say something.