Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 17, 2008
Our youth ache for us to see them, their hurt, pain too
Kids need us to watch them even when they shout, 'Leave me alone'
Our Young Church
By ROY PETITFILS
My two-year-old son often asks me to swing with him on his not very sturdy swing-set in our back yard.
It is beyond him that if daddy were to honour that request, his once beloved, erect swing-set would succumb to daddy's 280 pounds and 34 years of cheeseburger abuse, resulting in a mass of splinters and rubble.
What he really wants, I suspect, is for me to watch him. So I'll either push him, or pull up a chair and watch.
Eyes on me, Dad
I had better not be daydreaming, reading, talking on the phone or doing anything other than paying strict attention to what he's doing, or I'll hear "Dahhdeeeee! Wash meee!"
I remember when I wanted my mom to watch me play. It seems I was always asking her to come outside and watch me turn into Tarzan or turn (ruin) one of our old sheets into Superman's cape.
My mom, like so many other young superhero's moms, would put aside whatever she was doing, that is, washing my clothes, cooking my supper, to give me her attention.
I'm more sophisticated today. I've learned that asking for attention is not the "mature" thing to do, and like many of my fellow adults, I've grown used to pretending that I don't care if other people notice me.
And I'm sometimes guilty of expecting the same from young people.
Young people today are suffering from a crisis of invisibility. Contrary to what many think, our greatest fear is not rejection or even being physically hurt. Our greatest fear is being invisible.
Whether it is under the cloak of their bedrooms, behind their computers, between two ear buds or lost in a web of text messages, they have more ways to hide than any previous generation. And they're not happier for it.
Look at me
Despite all evidence to the contrary, kids want us to see them. They want us to see them for who they are and who they are becoming.
They want us to "keep tabs" on them, but even more so, to be deeply aware of what's going on in their lives, their dreams, their hurts, disappointments and fears.
In Mark's account of the Rich Young Man, it reads, "Jesus looked at him and loved him."
What a parenting practice!
What an educational philosophy!
What a youth ministry approach!
What difference would we make in the lives of kids if we, like Jesus, looked with love into the hearts of our children?
Whenever I see a kid who is tattooed from head to toe only sparing those parts that are pierced with God only knows what, I think to myself, "Here is a kid who wants to be noticed.
"Here is a child who has learned that the only way people are going to see him is if he marks himself up or pokes holes in his body.
"Here is a child who feels invisible. Here is a young person who longs to feel the loving gaze of Jesus."
Kids still need us to see them, even after they stop playing Tarzan and Superman.
They still need us to watch them, even long after they're no longer willing to ask for it.
They still need us to see them, even when we don't like what we see.
They still need us to stop doing important things in order to give them what's most important - our love and attention.(Roy Petitfils is an author, speaker and guidance counsellor at St. Cecilia School in Broussard, La.)
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