Do you ever get the feeling that you’re being watched?
You’re walking across the parking lot or through the halls and suddenly, your hair stands on end. You can feel someone’s eyes pressed against your back. You know they’re taking in every little thing you do.
This may seem dramatic. Okay, it definitely is.
But — what if I told you that you are being watched nearly 24/7?
I’m sitting in church one Sunday, listening to the sermon, and my eyes drift a little from the pulpit. I have ADHD, so it’s hard for me to look in one direction for a long period of time. I scan the congregation for a while, and I’m surprised to meet a pair of wide, brown eyes.
A young boy is facing backward in the pew in front of me, his hands gripping the top and his eyes locked with mine, watching my every move.
I smile at him and do a little wave, then turn back toward the pastor, scribbling a few notes from the sermon in my notebook. But I can still feel his eyes on me.
I know I shouldn’t be uncomfortable when kids stare. They’re interested in you and they haven’t learned the fear of confrontation yet. But as his brown eyes follow my every move, I begin to be overly aware of my actions.
Am I sitting like a lady? How’s my posture? I shouldn’t check my phone, that would look bad. Am I supposed to cross my legs? My shirt isn’t too low, is it? Am I bad for doodling in church?
This kid could be watching his mom. He could have been watching the man on the other side of him. He could have been napping, or picking his nose, or scribbling over the kid’s bulletin.
But he chose to watch me.
I can’t control what he does, but I can control what I do. How I act, what I say, how I respond.
And at that moment, I realized that I, a 21-year-old, barely functioning adult, was a parent.
No, he’s not my kid. No, I can’t discipline him or tell him what to do.
But just as kids watch and learn from their parents, they also watch and learn from us.
So many times I’ve told myself how I am going to parent my kids one day. I am going to teach them this, tell them that, show them this. And while I can definitely still do that, I’m realizing that I don’t need to wait. I can do that now.
There are kids in our neighborhoods and circles who are experiencing tensions at home. They witness abuse, anger, laziness… honestly, you can fill in the blank with pretty much anything. And as much as we’d love to smack some sense into their parents, we don’t get that luxury. However, their kids are watching. Those are the eyes you feel pressed into your back as you checkout at the grocery store. As you climb aboard the bus. As you sit in the middle of the church service. They’re observing the world around them, learning how it all works.
So now, when I sit in church, I remember my audience. As I thank the cashier, I remember the kid sitting in the cart behind me. As I tip my waitress, I remember the family one booth away, and those wide blue eyes following my every move.
Some of us may never get to be superheroes. Some of us will never invent a lifesaving gadget or solve a major crisis. But we all have the opportunity to help in raising the next generation.
How cool is that?
Was there something you felt you were missing growing up?
How can you give that to the next generation?