Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Listening To An Invisible Child

I yelled at my 5 year old son to get dressed, as I brushed my teeth. Mornings are always like this; scream, scream, go, go, hug and kiss. I went into his room and looked at his outfit: a t-shirt, 2 camouflaged sweatshirts and camo pants. "It's supposed to be in the 70's, you don't need 2 sweatshirts, take all that off!" I added a "hurry up" for good measure, swallowed my anxiety meds and went to establish an ETE (estimated time to exit) on my daughter.

My son slithered down the stairs and I examined his outfit, he had traded in the camo sweatshirts for a camo fleece zip up. "Fine, but take it off if you get hot. WHY DON'T YOU HAVE SHOES ON YET?" He giggled, "I'm invisible." My daughter stood in front of him. "Camouflage doesn't make you invisible, it makes you blend into your surroundings," she corrected him. "Why is no one listening to me?" I screamed, clapping my hands like a drill sergeant "car, car, car...."

Once outside, my self-dressed child ran up to a tree and held very still. He smiled. "I'm invisible." My daughter mumbled, "blending." I stopped for a moment and looked at him. He did blend pretty well, so I took a picture. "Let's see what you look like in front of a tree with rougher bark." He ran from tree to tree and I snapped some shots. "Let me see them!" He gleefully asked, "can we show them to my teacher?" "Sure." I replied, losing interest, "get in the car, I'm late for work."

The entire ride to school he discussed camouflage. We pulled up and I got out to walk him to the front door. His little warm hand clung tightly to mine. "You have to come in and show my teacher the picture." I looked at him, "I'm late for work. Later. I'll come in when I pick you up."

"No, mom, now."

I looked at him and back at my daughter waiting in the car. "Honey, I have to go, you have a good day. My phone is in the car. I'll show her later." I hoped he would forget about this by then. He held my hand tight. "No." I looked around at the bigger kids mulling around in front of the school, was he scared to go in alone? "Fine." I told him. I went back to the car and grabbed my phone and walked into the school with him. We walked through the office. "Can I show her?" I asked. He told me she was not the one. In the hall a women said hi to him. She, too, was not the one.

We turned the corner and two teachers stood in a classroom talking. My son lit up, "there she is!" I was about to ask which teacher when one woman came walking toward us. She looked at my son and exclaimed, "WHERE IS HE? WHERE IS Z?" She looked around confused. "He is just a floating head?! What happened to Z?" My son stood as still as a rock and giggled. "I hear his laugh, but I can't see him!!" She grew closer and closer. Z unzipped his fleece, showing her his T-shirt beneath. "There you are!" She smiled, "you survived the meteor crash! Great camo Z!" I remembered I had pictures to show her and I fumbled for my phone, "I'll take a copy of that," she nodded at me.

"So, Z are we gonna go thrift shopping?" She asked him. He laughed and yelled "Hey Vacklemore, you wanna go thrift shopping? What? Wha wha wha what? (like the song Thift Shop)" The two of them started doing the robot. She threw back her head and laughed to the teacher next to her, "Oh, I just love him!"

I walked down the hallway and my eyes welled up with tears. All night he had planned that. This morning he woke up wanting to be in camo. I kept yelling at him to change his clothes. He spoke and I ignored. He spoke and his sister corrected. He needed to show her, because she saw him. Even when he was invisible. He had probably heard her exclaim, "I love THAT kid." Him. HE was listening. I rushed him through his day like I rush him through his life. "Why aren't you listening, Z?" Why wasn't I? He tried to tell me. And I told him to hurry up. But he stood his ground. He had to fight to wear his outfit and fight to get me into the school. He had to fight and repeat himself because I wasn't listening. I almost missed the moment. I almost never knew the impact this woman had on my son.

The moment our children are born we tune into their every noise. We lay awake at night listening for a peep. We learn their cries and know when they are hungry, bored or hurt. We listen intently as the learn to speak, "Did she say ball? Was that mama?" And excitedly we beg them to communicate with us. We implore them to use their words and say "bye bye." Then, just as they master the language we all speak, we, parents, stop paying attention. We shush them and rush them. By about age 9 or 10 they learn we do not listen so they stop communicating. By 11 or 12 we are lucky if they don't speak a whole new language. We wonder why our children don't listen, but never stop to teach them how. We talk at them as they interrupt our phone calls, dish-washing, TV watching and Facebook browsing. The years of childhood blend quickly into our timelines, like camouflage against a tree. We plan to sit with them, but after work, after dinner, after bathtime, in the morning, tomorrow, this weekend... hours become invisible and children become adults. We need to stop and pay attention. And not just when we get a chance or when it's convenient for us.  As my son said, clinging to my hand, "No. NOW."


  1. ohmygod. This. This is exactly why I want a "do over" with my daughter. I'm so glad you LISTENED to Z. He is so blessed to have you as his mamma. Good job outta you. I love you. - Amy

  2. la La LA LOOOOOOVE it!! so true McTip. this teacher sounds fabulous! she danced the robot?!? i love her. it's teacher appreciation week. i wanna squeeze hug her. good job listening, pretty mama. Z looks so thrilled in these pics! and like he's grown taller. love you!

  3. Beautifully written and a wonderful reminder for all parents. I will definitely take this to heart!

  4. Made me tear up which isn't good cuz I already have a clogged up head and runny nose!! are special and your children are so blessed to have you.

  5. ok..this g-ma who's been given a second chance..and is raising her son's sweet children, with my wonderful husband of almost 31 years..cried..thanks so much..

  6. This gave me the best kind of goosebumps.

    <3 lemonhead :-)

  7. Well darn it all...he is invisible! And he looks so happy.
    First I must say thank you for taking the time in your rush to let him have the pictures taken. You rush around like a mad woman saying you don't take time for them but we all see the real you. You do take time for them. Altho life is fast,it seems to slow when we see them smile.
    I'm going. Now.

  8. I arrived here quite by accident. How can I come here to follow you?