Keeping My Eyes Open

by

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a bedtime story to my son when he leaned over and said, “Shh. Mom. Do you hear that weird sound?” He shrunk down under the covers.

I listened for a minute and realized that the sound was just his new clock.

I told him he had nothing to worry about.

“But Mom. Are you sure? Listen. Do you hear it?”

And that’s when I decided to have some fun.

I made my eyes wide, waited a few seconds like I was listening to the sound again, and then surprised him with a big, “Boo!”

He screamed at the top of his lungs and almost jumped out of bed.

It was really funny.

At least that’s what I thought until I stopped laughing and saw that he had tears in his eyes.

Talk about feeling guilty.

I never meant to scare him—I mean really scare him. I was only playing around. And we’d done things like that before…hiding behind the corner in the hall and jumping out to surprise each other.

But this time, he wasn’t laughing.

I felt horrible.

I hugged him tight and told him I was sorry. And after I left his room, it hit me that I had been so busy cracking up—my head back and my eyes closed—at my own prank, that I didn’t see how scared he was.

And I wondered for a minute how often that happens…

How often do I look at my kids and miss what they’re really feeling?

When my daughter comes home from school and acts a little grumpy, could it be that she’s had a bad day, and not that she’s having “a bad attitude”?

When my son wants me to stay in his room at bedtime, could it be because he’s scared, and not because he’s “being difficult”?

When I hear, “Mom, can you…?” twenty times a day from both of them, could it be that they just need more attention and not that they are “being needy”?

I’ll have to remember this the next time I get impatient.

Because I do want to see what’s going on with my kids.

I mean really see.

I want to be in tune with how they feel and I want them to be able to trust me with their feelings—good or bad.

After that night, I promised my son I wouldn’t do any more bedtime scares.

But we did agree that we still like to jump out at each other from behind the corner sometimes.

And we also decided it’s even more fun to wait until the person we are surprising is carrying a big glass of water.