The kids you see.

It was one of those mornings when everything went just as planned. I even remembered to pack extra snacks and refill the water bottles for everyone.

But the perfect plan didn’t quite buy me time to sit back and savor it all as it happened and whirled around me.

Snapping photos removed me from the pictures taking place only to bring me back right now. These are the kids you see- the little people who learn as much from our cynicism as they learn from their Sunday school books.

The kids you see are growing and searching for answers to questions we have learned to dismiss- questions about friendship, confusion about why wars exist, queries about bellybuttons and caterpillar legs. Parenting the kids you see doesn’t mean teaching them about a world so ugly and crass they would rather die than live there. It means helping them to find beauty in each other and hope in the common ground we cultivate and weed together.

Looking at the photographic evidence, I notice tiny details that whizzed past in all the action. Micah hovers nearby seeking safety in the group- she craves unanimous decisions and worries over who is on “her side”, often losing sight of what the sides are staking. I am baffled by the way in which she craves the conflict which upsets her.

Last night, I stared at the stars for a little while trying to decide what my role as a parent should be…. Or my role as a teacher. What should I teach her? What am I missing?

The girls always seem more conscious of the camera than the boys. It’s as if their smile counts for greater currency in the exchanges of everyday life.

Max imagines something else…..But the girls are fixed, posed, preparing their best smiles (the ones that balance ease with happiness). I am suddenly aware of the way in which my request for their smiles creates a prison reflected in prisms of lights.

J.’s hand rests against her old sister’s stomach. Is it protective? I don’t know.

The kids we see reassure us with the tiny touches that exist in a world that still dares to wonder. If you’ve watched reality TV show lately, chances are that your ability to wonder is slowly being scrubbed away. We should treat those TV shows as the dirty secrets of darkness that they are- nothing worth talking about and certainly nothing the mind of a child should ever have to see.

The kids you see are vulnerable to the contagion of laughter and giggles. D.’s huge grin lights up the landscape- and then radiates out from the faces around him.

Do we find ourselves turning towards the most radiant smiles? It’s as if those huge smiles hide a special secret or insight into the joy of life. That’s why the big fake smiles are so distressing to me- because they parody something very real and true, something raw that grabs us deep in the pit of the stomach.

The kids you see are more real than you or me. They don’t need to be trained in the fine art of despair. They don’t need to know that their value as people will be determined by their social status or professional striving or how many marathons they manage to run. What they need is to be seen as the kids you see. Those. There is nothing “better” they could be than what they are at this moment.