While my husband and I were catching up with our friend Dirk at church last weekend, our 15-year-old son Gus was speaking to a gentleman who was seated one row behind us in the sanctuary. The gentleman had initiated a conversation with Gus, asking him
questions about school and other things related to life; I was so impressed that this gentleman took the time to reach out to my son so I switched over to their conversation.
I introduced myself and met the man’s family; he works at Costco and his wife happens to be a writer. We talked about how long we have been attending church and connected on basic info about our family and work lives. I just so appreciated them reaching out to my son.
It is not always the case.
When you see kids at events with their parents, the adults are usually carrying on conversations with other adults, while the kids often just stand there, sometimes looking bored. Some kids will wait more patiently than others, while others will act out, letting us know that they want to go home.
Some people truly believe that kids should be seen and not heard, as the saying goes. My friend Dedee shared with me that when she was growing up and they had adult company, her mom made it clear to just smile and be well behaved, but not dare say anything. Same went for when they were at other people’s houses or in public spaces as a family. As my friend looks back on her formative years, it is a really hard part of her story to reflect on, and she has tried to make things different for her kids.
Paying attention to kids is huge to me, and not only do I do this with my own children, but I also try to engage other kids in conversations, asking questions, being interested in their lives and what’s going on, as the gentleman from church did with my son last weekend.
When people pay attention to your kids it communicates to them that they matter.
When we were growing up, my parents’ friends Nan and Dave Fritzsche paid attention to us kids when they came over for dinner or when we went to their house. As we grew up, Nan followed things we were doing and would ask us about them when we saw them. We didn’t see them a ton, but enough so that I remember her caring. It mattered. And, I think as an adult looking back, you especially realize the importance of it. To this day, I value Nancy Fritzsche as an amazing human being. And, whenever we see her as adults, she still takes an interest in my life and now the lives of my children. In fact, she hosted a couple’s shower for me when I was engaged to be married many years ago and to this day, when we see her at family events for my folks, she makes a difference because she cares.
As we have developed various friendships over the years there have been so many other people in our lives who have reached out to my kids to make them feel valued and that they matter; people who have taken interest in my kids and who they are and what they are up to, and for that I am so grateful.
One thing I have noticed is that some kids respond more quickly and readily than others to adults, and adults can tend to focus on the kids who are more outgoing than the quieter kids. As the mom of both kinds of kids, I so appreciate when adults don’t give up on my quieter kids. It can take time to get answers from kids when we try to engage them in conversations; even if kids offer one-word responses, it’s worth trying. Kids will know you care – just trying truly does matters.
Kids notice you care and parents notice you care about their kid.
In our world of online interaction and hiding behind phones, kids more than ever need to know they matter to adults in real time and real space, that their voices and stories are important.
That they should be seen, and heard.