One of my kids’ favorite pastimes is to play “I Spy.” Not only is it a fun challenge for them, it also keeps them preoccupied when we are out to eat at a restaurant, and it allows the adults at the table to carry on a somewhat uninterrupted conversation. So, it’s encouraged.
It never fails that my kids – now ages 11 and 7 – can spot the most obscure of items, whether they are the “spyer” or the “guesser.” They are perceptive. They are quick. They can go beyond the obvious to discover the minuscule or insignificant if the task requires it.
Which begs this question: If my kids possess mad observation skills when they have to use brain power and patience, what do they see when things are in plain sight? How careful am I when I am around them? What about others, like teachers, friends’ parents, or coaches at the ball field, who have an immeasurable impact on shaping my child’s character? Do they realize – truly realize – that the spotlight is on them in a much more significant manner than a Broadway actor?
Our kids see. They witness our imperfections, our stumbles, our weaknesses, our tirades. They know when someone is being treated unfairly. They are keenly aware of adults who are “trouble.” They can pick up very quickly what is going on, as innocent as most of them are.
I am a dad to two boys, but I am also a coach to another 21 boys on the baseball field. It is a privilege like none other, and I do not take it lightly. I have the ability to shape – even just a tiny bit – who these young boys will grow up to be. The types of attitudes they will have, the type of friends they become, the kind of sports they will be in victory or defeat, and how they will respect and treat others. That is an awesome thing.
I was working with one of the kids on the team the other day. We were in the bullpen, and this young man was telling me about his experience on a team the year before. He suddenly said, “I don’t like Coach (insert coach’s name).” I had heard other parents and kids say the same thing, and all I could think about was how much of a shame it was that kids felt this way about a man who volunteers his time to coach. This was the same coach that I heard brought in a kid in the middle of an inning to pitch in relief. The kid who came in was allowed to throw one pitch – ONE – before the coach yanked him out of the game. Kids know. Kids see. Kids feel.
Eyes are on you whether you realize it or not, whether you like it or not. We have the power, as adults, to encourage, love, teach, and invest in children and teenagers. What we say and do around them – especially in our roles as parents – will either do them a world of good, or will send them down a tough road of pain, confusion, foolishness, and discouragement.
Just as kids see the worst in us, they also see the best in us. They know the adults they want to spend time with. They know the coaches they want to play for. They know the police officer who gives them a high five, or the teacher who gives them hugs. And, most of all, they know their moms and dads. And, their eyes are searching – always searching – to find someone they can follow.