As an update to my last post: it did not go well.

I’d love to say that I rocked being quiet and loving my kids with actions and deep eye-gazing, but not so. It seems I like talking, and rely on it, more than I even understood. In fact, it felt inauthentic to zip it – to me and to my kids. In my attempts to communicate without speaking I succeeded in making my 12 year old squirm away and my five year old cry. Lily, my 9 year old  daughter who loves a snuggle more than anything, didn’t mind. Any attention I give her is accepted with such gladness of heart that she could clearly use more. But sweet little Mae was fully creeped out.

It could have been poor timing: on a Saturday morning as I lay in bed, she burst into my room to lament over her missing book mark. The sadness seemed overly intense; she was clearly not in a good place. And I chose that instant to fit in some face time.

I tried to force a special moment instead of simply listening to my kid. Understandably, it felt weird. Mommy is suddenly staring at me. Why is she touching my face? I just want to know where my book mark went. And the tears flowed.

Luke, my oldest, my pre-teen, my boy, also loves a hug anytime of day. But staring into his sea-blue eyes is a different story. What? What? What the heck? Which makes sense. In the middle of the day, Mom stops and stares and doesn’t say a word. Something is up. She usually (like all her children) can’t stop talking. I must be in trouble.

So, some takeaways…

1. Stare into Lily’s eyes and give her a smooch several times a day. It makes her feel loved and she can’t get enough.

2. Luke and Mae don’t need that as much, but they need it. At bedtime, when it feels more normal to snuggle and be face to face is a great time for quiet and to just be with them. That makes sense, to everyone. Not awkwardly in the middle of the day. That doesn’t.

3. I like to talk and that’s ok. My kids are used to me blabbing, and not talking feels cold and distant. Like I’m mad. So I’ll just be myself and jabber away.

All good things to know.

My hypothesis was wrong. Silent communication isn’t always better; sometimes it’s creepy. That’s what makes the organic moments of quiet and the bedtime tracing of the face mean something. I can love them the way I love them naturally, with a little added on for my snuggly middle child. It’s not as complicated as I thought.

I’m so glad I figured that out.

It’s Like I Love Them or Something

I woke in the middle of the night with an image from the movie Captain Fantastic in my head. In one scene, Viggo Mortensen (who was nominated for a best actor Oscar) looks at his son through the rear view mirror of their live-in bus. His son has just shaved off his long brown locks, and Mortensen’s character has just shaved his beard. Both were done as an outward sign of an internal change of direction: a tangible demonstration of their respective rites of passage. Father sees son, a look of acknowledgment crosses his face – a look of respect for his son’s this-is-me statement. He runs his hand across his head. The son looks back, slight smile, head tilted up, and runs his hand across his jaw. I think it’s my favorite moment in the film (of which there are many to choose). It communicates a paragraph’s worth of words in two motions and one long look.

I love words. I like to read them, say them, hear them, even invent them sometimes. I talk A LOT, and I write, and I read my writing aloud before I post it. I even talk to our bunny to have an excuse to say words out loud when no humans are available to listen. But I think often the most significant form of communication is silence. Either for good or for evil.

When my husband gave me the silent treatment early on in our marriage, it hurt more than nasty words ever could.

When I have moved past angry to brooding-quiet, my kids know it’s serious.

When I catch my husband looking at me from across the room, I carry that look in my heart all day.

When my kids get my total eyeball attention and a grin, they feel loved more than if I spew a slew of complements. And they carry it with them, too.

And so. I’m going to try an experiment. I’m going to try (try, I say) to be a little quieter this week. I’m going to attempt some face time with each child, and with my husband. Because A. it can’t be done in passing, which means connection, and B. it will stick like glue. I’m going to sit down with my son and look in his green-blue eyes and smile. It will be weird – he will get to fully indulge the adolescent mantra that parents are insane. I’m going to touch his pre-facial-hair-face and hold it in my hands. The same for my middle-child brown-eyed girl and my not-so-tiny-anymore blue-eyed beauty. I’m going to say “I adore you” with my eyes, with my hands. And with my flared nostrils, because Mae will love that. For my husband, well, that’s private. I won’t go into that here. But I won’t be jabbering, that’s for certain.

I’m sure the creators of Captain Fantastic didn’t predict that some mom in Kansas would take that tiny slice of their film and be moved to action. That’s what art does, though. Good art, anyway. It moves people – to consider, or re-consider, to realize, to feel, to act. That one scene went a long way. I’ll let you know how the experiment goes. I predict eye-rolling, giggling, and maybe a request to play video games. But my hope is for connection. To stop and look long enough that words aren’t necessary.

Me. Giving up words.

It’s like I love them or something