Friday, February 13, 2009

looking out a train

About a week ago, I was sitting on the No. 5 Strassenbahn at 7:50 a.m., trying to wake up, when a young girl got on and sat down two seats in front of me. She was looking out the window with her whole body. She leaned to the glass, put her hands on the sill; her face was open and intent and her eyes called out, ‘Hello, hello!’

I turned my head to see what she was looking at: a middle-aged woman, pinched face, sealed inside a too-thin beige coat. Mom. And mom wasn’t looking back. Then she did, but she looked away again quickly. Mom was annoyed, or Mom was pissed. Maybe Mom was in a hurry.

None of this changed the look on the young girl’s face. The only thing she wanted and the only thing she could think about was her mother’s gaze, looking back at her.

I watched this girl—maybe 10 or 12—struggling, and failing, to get what she wanted. Then the Strassenbahn started moving again and we left her mother behind. The girl kept looking back for awhile.

Who knows what had happened between them? But it was clear that all the girl wanted was a few seconds of her mother's full attention. It made me think of something Jesper Juul wrote in my favorite book about parenting. He said all children want--often desperately--to please their parents. And he said that every child needs to feel valuable to their parents. They need to know they have worth.

Something to remember.

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