On beautiful days, it's not uncommon for the teachers at a local daycare to take their children on a walk around campus. To keep everyone grouped safely together, each child holds onto a tag on a long rope. You can't help but smile when you see them. It stops traffic. While teaching, I once glanced out the window and saw the kids-on-a-rope passing by, pointing out squirrels and toddling along at a glacial pace, and I nearly had to stop my lecture just to soak in the scene.
It made me miss my own children acutely.
And yet, when you're with your children all the time, it's easy to lose that warm and fuzzy sensation. As precious as they are, kids can get under your skin and tap into reserves of frustration or anger that you didn't know (and wish you weren't) capable of feeling. Kids bring out the best in you, and they also can reveal the worst.
A few weeks ago while driving along a windy country road, I saw a pair of kid's shoes sitting on a long retaining wall, perfectly positioned as if they were waiting for their owner to come back and claim them.
Now, I see kid's shoes all the time. I trip on piles of them when I enter and exit my front door every day. But seeing the shoes in an unexpected place was refreshing, just like seeing the kids-on-a-rope in a setting where children are generally absent.
It's the fresh look that makes all the difference. Those teachers walking along with the children-on-the-rope just might have been counting down the hours until they clocked-out because the kids were acting up. Those intriguing shoes might have belonged to a child who disobeyed his parent's instructions to put them on his feet. But to me, they were fresh.
When my children were first born, I couldn't look at them enough. I'd study them. Everything about them -- their satiny, wrinkly skin, their never-been-walked-upon feet, their inability to hold up their heads, their yawns, their noises -- captivated me. Kerrington is still in this stage, and I practically want to swallow her whole, drink her in, and preserve her beautiful babyness.
Even during the most frustrating days, what if I inspected my children like I did when I first met them? I'd examine those small dimples that appear on Reese's cheeks when she smiles her widest grins. I'd notice the sunkissed highlights in Brooke's wild mop of hair. I'd stand at the crib long after Kerrington had fallen asleep, marveling over her perfect profile, the pout of her lips, and how she sleeps with her knees tucked underneath her ever-so-slightly so that her bottom points toward the sky.
Maybe I'll make one of those ropes and occasionally ask my children to parade around the house. It will be a reminder to observe them from a distance so I can better see them for who they are when they're up close.