The rest of the family was out, and I was prepping to mow our front yard. Mower wheeled into the driveway, wheel height checked, gas level checked…and then Joseph rode up.
Joseph’s probably seven, and he lives in the cul de sac over from us. Earlier this Spring he received a new bike and helmet, and he now rides by our house frequently as a part of a riding loop. Initially he wouldn’t really acknowledge us as he cruised by on the sidewalk, but eventually he began returning our greetings. This evening he actually pulled to a stop.
We chatted awkwardly in the manner of an adult and a kid that don’t know each other. I learned that he was enjoying summer break and that he hadn’t been to the pool yet…but he’d visit there soon.
“Welp,” I said, “I need to mow my grass.”
I expected Joseph to hop on his bike and return to his loop riding, but he didn’t move. I must have looked at him a bit quizzically, and he explained himself. “Actually, I just want to watch you mow.”
And so, I mowed and Joseph watched. Main section, section between the sidewalk and road, section on the other side of the driveway…done. Except for his head that followed me around the yard, Joseph didn’t move. I wheeled the mower back into the garage, snagged a broom, swept the driveway and sidewalk clean, and Joseph watched.
Job complete, I said goodbye to Joseph and headed inside to my next task. Joseph went back to riding his bike, and I – honestly – felt a bit stunned. He just watched me mow.
I told my wife about my audience for mowing later that night, but I didn’t think too much of it until a day or so later during a family hike. Drew – our three-year-old – and I were a little ahead of the others (not our typical position in the hiking line-up). We stopped at the side of the trail, and I stood at the side of the trail, looking back for the others, my arms akimbo. After spotting Chrissy and the girls approaching, I turned back to Drew…who was standing in my shadow, arms akimbo, looking back up the trail. My mimic.
Drew didn’t verbalize what was happening, but his pose told me what Joseph said with words a few days previous: I just want to watch you. It made me smile.
It also sobers me a bit. My kids are watching me. Your kids are watching you. In our good moments, our thoughtful moments, our mundane moments, our not-so-good moments.
And so, I’m reminded and challenged: Be wise with the words you speak to your kids. Be intentional with the lessons that you share. And always remember that the most important model, the most memorable thing you and I teach may be found in what our kids simply observe in us.
Speaking of dad’s to watch, we’ve pulled in a few vets for some wisdom: on teaching kids the art of conversation, the power of whisker burn, learning about vulnerability, and telling your kids your story.
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Photo by Ben Konfrst on Unsplash