My four year old son has an uncanny knack for finding insects. Everywhere he goes, he finds little animals, or evidence of them, including munched leaves or nearly-microscopic eggs, and less salubrious things like poo or molts. Even today as we were running errands around the village, he quickly let go of my hand, nipped into a blackberry bush and within seconds shouted, “I’ve found a caterpillar!” Marveling at his ability to find these little creatures, especially as they are often hiding on the underside of leaves, I said, “How do you manage to find those insects? You’re so good at it!”
He replied, “It’s because I have perfect eyesight.” I laughed, but then he added, “It’s also because you’re not looking for them.”
We walked silently home because he gave me an awful lot to think about. No, I guess I’m not looking for them. Insects, after all, are his life’s passion. Just about everything he does is focused on finding insects. So naturally he will see them.
But more than that, there’s a certain quality of noticing going on here that means that he is making a point of looking for what he wants, of passing each moment mindful of his surroundings and looking out for what matters to him.
In my parenting life, I find that I often see what I’m looking for. When I get bogged down by my children’s arguments, I notice that they seem to be arguing all the time. When I feel that I’m constantly at loggerheads with one of my children, I conclude that we are at odds all the time. When the kitchen is a mess, suddenly I’m noticing all the other places in the house that are also a mess.
Lately I’ve been practicing looking out for what I want to see. I keep my eyes peeled for the times when my children are loving being with each other, like when they were holding hands during a scary moment at the cinema yesterday, or when they wrap their arms around each other as an older one is reading the littles a book, or like today when they built a fort out of cardboard and played together with relish. I am trying to notice the times when my children and I seem to be in a flow, when we are really connecting with each other, when I talk and it feels like they are really hearing me, and when they confide in me and I feel like I can feel their words planting themselves in the soil of my heart.
As a home educator, I am constantly aware of “teachable moments.” Those are the times when we all have a chance to learn and discover and have our questions answered. Being aware of those moments as they arise has slowed us down and enriched our daily lives—life becomes one, uninterrupted teachable moment. I am noticing how every member of my family is learning every day.
Search a plant for caterpillars and you won’t find just one, you’ll see several. Your eyes suddenly attune themselves to the shape and colour, look! There they are! Give something your attention and you’ll notice it more and more. What you notice tends to grow. Unlike my four year old son, I don’t have perfect eyesight. But I know what I’m looking for, and I’m practicing intently and relentlessly focusing my gaze on it.
I’m also getting better at finding caterpillars.
©2014 Lisa Hassan Scott.