I have two toddlers living in my house, and as such, I am reminded more often than most about the pressing needs a two-year-old has for recognition. In their own, mostly non-verbal ways, they are asking me all day long, "Did you see that? Do you hear me? Do you feel me? Mama?" They are learning so fast, in one of the greatest cerebral growth spurts a human experiences. They are easily overwhelmed and frustrated as they learn to handle emotions, learn my expectations, and process their surroundings. I need to remind myself of this more often. After all, they are two. Yelling at them to, "stop whining, seriously!" is about as effective as telling my dog to learn tap dancing.
This need for recognition, though, this is good stuff to remember with the two-year-old crowd, but also with everyone. Everyone wants recognition.
In Oprah's final broadcast, one of the nuggets of wisdom she shared in pared-down, clear-cut language reflects this need to be seen. The need to be witnessed is so basic that I can remember my babies as young as four months old making deliberate noises to get a reaction from me.
I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?…Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. ‘I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.’I thought about this idea for a few days, I let it ruminate in my mind's stew. I chewed on it, meditated on it, and imagined the ways it could be applied in my world. I remarked that many of the struggles I have with Abby, (a strong-minded girl who is trying to understand the mechanics of things), could be best dealt with by acknowledging her need to be seen, to be heard. She's been extra sassy lately, and quick to cry when frustrated at another perceived injustice (like having to return a particular baby blanket to her sister when there are 84,756 others in the closet). Maybe she just needs me to hear her, to repeat back her worries and concerns, so she knows I understand. That after three more babies, she still matters to me.
Or Hailey and Robin. Maybe they tug at my pant leg and cry at my feet while I am busy preparing breakfast because what they really need is for me to take a moment, squat down, look into their eyes and see them, hear them. Acknowledge that they want something they can't express for themselves. They aren't old enough to appreciate that I am carefully cutting their toast and washing their raspberries and can't stop everything to get a toy they left upstairs. But I can show them they matter. Always.
Or when I find myself discussing an issue with Rich, one we've circulated many times before, only to find ourselves back again, working it over, hoping for a different outcome, or some clarity. A lot of those types of talk could probably be solved by validating what he's saying. Making him feel listened to, heard. I don't have to agree with him, give in to the toddlers, or let Abby get her way, but I can give them my time, my listening ears, and acknowledge them. At two, and at 31, everyone in my house deserves the respect of being listened to, seen, appreciated.
Because what happens if I don't? What would become of this big family if no one felt important? Who wants to courageously seek help or confess wrongdoings or offer praise to someone when they don't feel worthwhile? They wouldn't feel loved, that's what.
There will one day be four teenage girls in my house, and I prepare myself for the phases where they don't want to tell me anything, they don't think I know anything. I'm sure those days will come. But they will know, from years of experience that when they talk, I listen, and that when they show me, I see them. What they say and feel and do matters.
It matters. Isn't that something everyone wants to hear? Plain and simple, underneath all the hyperbole, psychology, convoluted arguments and miscommunications? You matter.