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Let your eyes speak
May 24, 2022 COMMENT comment
Let your eyes speak
By Arti Jain
Smile and give a hug, let your face light up and communicate your love and affection to your kid. The kids don’t get to see the scope of our emotions or the depth of our concern but in those few seconds as they walk through that door, all they see is a look of appraisal.
In the year 2000, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison for her show. Morrison gave perhaps the best single piece of parenting advice that can not be found in any parenting books: When your child walks in the room, does your face light up? Th ink about it. When children walk into the room, we rebuke them for bringing dirty shoes into the house, we inquire if they have
finished their milk, we ask them to comb their hair �?properly’, to tie their shoelaces and pull up their socks. Our eyes scan their faces, their clothes, their hair but seldom search for their eyes. If we did, we’d see reflected in them the reality of how they see us. They feel judged, criticised, admonished... anything but loved!
“You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. But if you let your face speak what’s in your heart...because when they walked in the room, I was glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see,” Morrison said.
We hide our worries well. The kids wouldn’t know how our heart skipped a beat seeing them off in the morning, and how the sound of their voice near the door just made us leap. They wouldn’t know how obsessively we agonise over their safety every time we read the newspaper. We worry that the uncaring world is spinning so fast it will fail to notice how wonderful our kids are. So we remind them again and again to be at their best.
Sometimes we go a step ahead and warn them of impending doom. If you don’t finish your milk..., If you don’t study for your exam..., If you don’t pay attention to how you look…
We want them to be better, stronger, far more successful than we could ever hope to be. We want them to strive to be better, so we forget to celebrate them as they are.
They don’t get to see the scope of our emotions or the depth of our concern but in those few seconds as they walk through that door, all they see is a look of appraisal. An assessment they know they will fail. “What did I do wrong this time?” Our anxieties have created theirs. Our disquieted comments scrape away at their self esteem, replacing it with a lifetime of self-doubt.
Toni Morrison’s advice is both easy and difficult to follow. To bring to our eyes what we know so well in our hearts. It will take some practice and we’ll have to gently work our way towards it, one smile at a time.
Then again, the best parenting advice isn’t applicable just to parents. What about other people in our lives? What do they see when they see us? How we make each other feel is far more important than what we say to each other. Yet, we spend an inordinately long time trying to find words that would fit perfectly.
We smile frugally. We don’t mean to ration our hugs but in the rush of the day, they just pile up in the corner, waiting to come out on the right occasion. We thank God for our blessings but isn’t that a circuitous way of going about it? Why don’t we just thank the people in our lives for being there? I am sure God wouldn’t mind.
Cut out the middleman. Listen to that wise old lady. Brighten up when your loved one walks into the room. A smile, a hug, a pat on the head, even a little jig of joy every now and then, for the distracted partner, the sullen friend, for that pimply, awkward kid – especially for him!

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