In the dark night, lit only by a full moon and constellations pinpointing the sky, my little Shaya played ping-pong with his 18-year-old cousin. It was nothing remarkable except how many teenagers do you know who would spend hours with a six-year-old?
Samuel had wandered over to our house while the crab feast was still going, and Shaya asked him to meander down to “the barn,” that sandy space under the beach house where the ping pong table sits and all the beach chairs, buckets and shovels. And so he went, and stayed, for hours, playing with my little boy first there, then on the bocce ball court, giving him full attention as if there was no place else he’d rather be.
All week, the tall teenage cousins have doted on and listened to my little boy. After the ping pong tournament, I took the two of them and my lovely daughter out for ice cream.
“I want to sit in the car with Samuel,” Shaya exclaimed. And so the six-foot sweet boy clambered into the back of the minivan to sit beside my son’s car seat.
At the ice cream shop, they sat next to one another at the picnic table, talking and listening, equally honest, sincere and interested.
In years to come, I know that my son will look back on these moments in awe. He will aim to be like Samuel and like the other boys who took the time to notice him, to listen to him, to play with him this summer week.
I wouldn’t be surprised if, unspoken, he decides to follow the same path as some of his much-older cousins.
They probably know it’s kind to dote on a much-younger cousin, but I’m sure these boys don’t realize the gift they’re giving my son. The gift of attention, of noticing, of focus and respect. For a little one, who often gets shuffled along behind the big kids, to be the center of their attention, to be important enough to play basketball with them and all the other late-night games, it’s a big deal.
I’ve built a business on the concept that relationships are everything. And I am energetically thrilled when I realize how true my hunch was.
We never get too old to appreciate it when someone pays attention to us. We never cease wanting to feel important, noticed. Even the arguments we sometimes stumble into, they only happen because at that moment, we want to be heard.
The other night, my Asher was going to sleep over at a cousin’s house but ended up coming home. It happens, with kids. Part of his reasoning was that he didn’t want to play flashlight tag that night on the beach and his cousin did; he didn’t want to ruin the evening for someone else.
My kid thinking about someone else so much that it alters his plans? I couldn’t be more proud.