As the children’s activity and noise levels evolve to busier and louder levels, my thoughts slowly recede into hiding, fearful to emerge. My brain shuts off. I can begin to lean on blogs and podcasts for mental life support.
Books provide nourishment. After choosing to set aside one sort-of beneficial book and one beneficial-but-massive book, I quickly found their replacements. Two books of thoughtful essays turned my fancy and filled my cup. The beautiful photography and layout of “Brand Brilliance” helped my soul to breathe.
But it was not enough.
The three older kids went to spend the night with the grandparents. I turned on the podcasts to enjoy without having to make conversation. I washed the windows knowing they would stay clean without grubby finger smudges and tongue residue for at least twelve hours. While a social two-year-old alone without his team is no picnic, once settled into bed, I was free to read.
I held before me a kernel gained from one of the essays I read in the morning titled “Reverence” by Dietrich von Hildebrand. Sounds smart, doesn’t it?
In it, von Hildebrand succinctly writes about the value of things. Everything has value. We have three ways to approach the value of a thing.
First, with smugness, like I know everything. With that arrogance or know-it-all-ness, I walk around telling the world what’s what. To that person, the world looks flat and two-dimensional, because there is nothing to be discovered.
The second is with an eye to usefulness. How can this thing or that person serve me? If it cannot, it is merely black-and-white in my eyes. Only the things that can enhance my knowledge, advance my product, increase my pleasure draw my eye. The world, except for me, is also flat and lifeless.
The third way is with reverence, “It enables the spiritual eye to see the deeper nature of every being.” The person takes an open posture, rather than inserting his or her own thoughts and opinions into the matter, sits back, and “leaves to being the space it needs to unfold itself.”
The best in their fields in psychology, philosophy, science, journalism, any art at all, are capable of this. There may be hypotheses or goals, but the person is open to seeing what comes, to learning the story of the other, putting himself in the other person’s shoes. Thus they discover, the “value inherent in every stone, a drop of water, in a blade of grass, precisely as being, as an entity that possesses its own being, which is such and not otherwise.”
Parenting requires this openness to the other.
The ability to turn and truly see the other. It feeds the little moments and the big. Perhaps more relatable than von Hildebrand, Jack from the show “This is Us” explains, “A big grand gesture, it’s not about the actual thing that you do…It’s about intent. It’s about taking the time to tell the person you care about, I see you, I hear you, I know exactly what you need right now and I’m showing how important that is to me.”
It begins with truly seeing.
When I lay down at night in the silence of a house with only one child, not at the helm but in bed, I experienced something I had not experienced in weeks: my thoughts. True my thoughts kept me up after watching an unexpectedly gruesome television show weeks ago, but they were more flashback and visual. These were thoughts, words, pouring through my mind processing the things I read and the events of the day. Before that evening, they were not strong enough to cut through the clutter of technology and prattle of children. It needed space. It needed silence.
I am going to implement “rest time” once again when I make my relentless children occupy assorted places in the home with walls between them to muffle their conversations. I will seek for myself a quiet hiding spot. I will read. And hopefully, I will think. In turn, I suspect I will see clearly once again.