I sat at the kitchen table on the eve of my 39th birthday. My two girls were with me and we started talking about music. Melina stated she did not know what kind of music she really liked because she didn’t know the the kinds. We went to the internet and began to play. We listened to everything from George Strait to Tool. I even sprinkled One Direction in there.
Immediately, Kenlie arose from her chair and began dancing. Each song, metal, pop, country, she danced like no one was watching with the biggest smile on her youthful face. Melina sat there and moved her head back and forth to the different rhythms saying judging each song. I began to look deeply into their eyes and saw my wife and me staring back. It was this moment that I was experiencing presence.
Looking at Melina, I know she is thoughtful and introspective. She is wise beyond her 8 years. She thinks through things deliberately and is sensitive to situations and people. She says just enough till her point is made. She gives that smile that only her mother can give. Her logic matches that of her mother’s and she teaches me subtlety. She loves art and sports. Swimming brings her tremendous joy. Melina is constantly telling her mother and me that she loves us. It makes me so happy.
Kenlie is such a live spirit. She absorbs everything. We to watch her so carefully because she will hug and kiss nearly everyone. She knows no division nor stranger. She loves everyone and everything. She dances because it brings her happiness. She loves to cuddle and it is nearly impossible to keep her out of our bed at night snuggled tightly to one of us. Her eyes look to me and her grin is one that her mother gives to me quite frequently. Nonjudgemental but deliberate. (sometimes) Her eyes are turning from baby blue to green like her mother’s. This brings me great joy.
I thought of my wife and how patient she is with me. She has this giggle that is contagious and eyes that melt. She seems so in control, so grounded, and so content. She is quiet, reserved, and kind. She is happiest when with our children. I have watched our worlds go from revolving around each other to revolving around our children. She knows me and can say everything she needs to with a look. She is like wine growing more beautiful with age. She sends me random texts of love and compassion. She makes me smile.
I contemplated which girl was more like me or their mother and I could not distinguish between the two. Both had our qualities. I detached from myself momentarily and began to see the world through the eyes of my children. A kitchen table, computer, music, and a daddy. They did not yearn for anything at that moment. They were present with me and I was present with them. I felt a great warmth move through my body as my girls danced in the kitchen. I gently and happily wept.
I began to think about how many moments I have missed because of my lack of presence. How many times have my girls been present with me and wanting nothing more than to have their father present with them? How many times have emails, work confrontations and divisions, my ego swirling out of control, denied me of this gift right in front of me?
I also began to think about how presence impacts the work we do in education. Are we really present with our students and our colleagues. Do we truly listen and know them. Do we honor them with our presence and awareness? Do we know how to maneuver this crazy world with them? Do we learn from our students as much as we teach? Are we open to our colleagues and their ideas?
In this moment, I experienced awareness. An awareness that honors what is in front of me rather than what is behind or beyond me. Today, I choose to be present. I deny my ego’s urge to drown in what I cannot control. Instead, I look to my family, friends and colleagues and am truly here. Fully present and aware. This is life. This is what it means to live. It is not in books, dogmas, biases, televisions, computers, or possessions. It is not in the threads of facebook that divide us. It is in the eyes of children and in the eyes of each other. I have the greatest gift right in front of me. Love. Maybe this is what they meant when they say “Jesus wept”.
This is my gift to you family and friends. To see things as they are and not what we want them to be. Be present. It is presence that heals. Heal today. Love.