When she walked through the door I knew right away. No enthusiasm and no energetic hug. I am going to miss those when she goes off to college. But that is another post that I have much time to prepare for.
Today she went straight up to her room. My four-year old son was having a fit because the toy that he had just gotten in the mail wasn’t…..I don’t even know what it wasn’t. It just wasn’t!. He’s four. I knew that his fit was just a storm that would was traveling through. And that after a while he would be fine. So I went upstairs to check on my baby-girl.
I slipped softly into her room and what I saw was sad, but not unexpected. There on her bed, was my daughter curled up in the shape of a crescent moon. She is quite tall for her age, but she was only taking up about a quarter of the bed. She had covered herself with a tiny throw blanket, just large enough to cover her outline and nothing more.
I have only been a father for nine and half years but I have learned that there are times when you speak and there are times when you wait. I curled up next to my daughter, making sure not to take any of her blanket. She needed the protection it was giving her and I wasn’t about to take that from her. I had made my mind up that I would let her be the first the one to speak. If at all.
And after a few moments she did. She knew right away that I wasn’t there to lecture or give advice. I was there to provide warmth and comfort during a time in which she was cold and confused. I need to remind myself how effective this was as she gets older and issues and answers become more challenging.
She started by asking me how my day was and I told it was fine. I waited and then asked her about her day. I knew at this point that was what she wanted. She proceeded to tell me why she was upset. And I just listened. She would occasionally ask me my advice and I did the best I could. After a few minutes she asked if we could go downstairs because she was hungry.
It was at this point that I felt that she was better. Which meant that we were better. We all know that when the people we love are sad that it affects us deeply. I also think that far too often we feel as if we have to solve their problems when really we just need to be there. With them. For them. Beside them.
I didn’t provide my daughter with any words of wisdom. But I did lie down next to her and wait for her to open up. And once I did she let me in. If I had asked her what was wrong the moment she waked in the door, I don’t think I would have gotten a response.
Much has been said and much has been done in the past few years about getting our children to be college and career ready. We are so busy thinking about preparing our students for their future that we have forgotten about preparing them for their todays.
Like my daughter when she came home today, many of our students come to us each day not needing our words or advice. They simply need us. And by us, I mean the part of us that remembers what it was like to be a child. And to be picked on. Or laughed at. Or had their heart broken.
These are not times for words. These are times for shoulders and hugs. These are times for silence and listening. These are times when we show that we care more about them being ready to face today than we do we to preparing them for tomorrow. If we can convince our students of that, then preparing them for college and careers will be a piece a cake. Because I can assure you, the most difficult tests I have taken in my life did not require a pencil.
My daughter seems fine now. That may last or it may not. But if it doesn’t she knows that I am here. And when she is ready to open up and let me in. I will be right by her side waiting. Not with advice and not with an answer. But with a heart that knows what it’s like to hurt and want nothing more than an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince