Picture of Children Playing

Look at ME!

Two entirely unrelated pieces of news involving the New York Times crossed my feed this week highlighting an easily forgotten longing in each of us. Both detail what the legendary newspaper declined to publish. It reminded me of a reality that all of us experience. We all long to be noticed when we perform before others.

First, the stories passed over by the Times. The Senate Hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh detailed accusations from three individuals. The third accuser was rebuffed as ridiculous by Judge Kavanaugh. Even the New York Times refused to carry the story.

The other curious omission was actually a delay. Over 110 years ago the now famous Wright Brothers made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Apparently the first 120-second, self-propelled flight of a bi-plane was not considered news by the Times until three years later. Amazing.

Our children play soccer or little league baseball on fields all over this country. They have one longing as they step up to bat, run the bases or kick the ball. They just want to be noticed. Some don’t even have parents in the stands. Hopefully a coach or their teammates cheer and encourage their performance.

What child has not screamed from the top arc of a park swing, “Look at ME!” Translation? My adrenaline is pumping. I’m doing something incredible. I’m pushing my envelope. I sure hope someone is paying attention!

Attention. One of the surprising causes of misbehavior. Why does a junior high boy hit a girl on the arm or bump into her in the hallway? He wants her to notice him. He likes her and he hasn’t figured out how to express his affection yet. She wonders why he is so mean and why he constantly mistreats her. He is just saying, “Look at ME!”

Parents don’t need to publish stories in the New York Times about their children. We don’t even need those cute little plastic icons of a family or bumper stickers about whether our children are honor students on our cars. Our children need our attention, not our neighbors. Our children need us to put our phones down when they address us or try to relate a story or ask a question. We have to fight the frustration that these moments seem almost to connect to one another because they happen so often. The day will come when we can’t get their attention for anything because they want us to believe their teen-age skills make our input unnecessary.

Children need someone to tuck them into bed at night who has more than 10 seconds to say good night. They need someone they can run to when they skin their knee or lose their boyfriend. There are many kinds of cries for attention and all of them request our notice. We give more to some cries than others but our children need to know they can have our undivided attention when they need it.

Can we give too much attention? Of course. Our children aren’t the center of the universe. They also need to know that we believe there are some things they are fully capable of doing on their own as they grow up. Like crying babies who finally begin putting themselves to sleep at night, older children learn to tie their own shoes, make their own friends and play games whether anyone is cheering them or not. They build this confidence on the foundation of the attention that we have invested over many incidents through time. Because they know we care, they can begin to feel our attention even in our absence.

Someday even the newspaper might notice something good they have done. Hopefully it will be good.

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