Remember that internet craziness a few weeks back over the color of a dress? If you missed it, the world was taking sides over whether the picture of a dress circulating the web was white and gold or blue and black. It sounds silly now. But at the time it was splitting families down the middle. At least my family. It was a mind trick—obviously the dress was white and gold. But then my husband took one glance at it, and without me saying a word, declared just as authoritatively, that the dress was blue and black. It was like I didn’t even know who he was anymore.

Just days after the dress fiasco, my youngest turned three. He’s a second born. So am I. And there are rumors about people like he and I. That we are rebel rousers. Stubborn. Wild children. We can get a bad wrap for being so challenging and… “spirited”. I remember the day Pace was born, hearing his mighty cry, and the nurses saying “he’s got a healthy set of lungs!” and thinking, “Oh no.” (Have I mentioned I have pessimistic tendencies?)

Pace has always been on the feisty side, which has resulted in two things happening as I anticipate how his liveliness will play out in his future—and mine. I tend to parent out of fear. And I tend to expect worst. Both lead to one thing: only seeing the negative.

It’s a terrible way to live, and an even more terrible way to parent.

Which brings me back to the dress. Once you saw one color in the picture it was hard to see anything else. Your brain only registered what it wanted to—even if you were told the dress was actually different from what you observed. It was maddening. But in the parenting world, seeing this way can be more than that. It can be devastating.

Like with the dress, once we’ve anticipated our child to behave a certain way, expect him to react a certain way, we’ll always find what we’re looking for. We’ll trick ourselves into perceiving something that isn’t actually the reality. We’ll swear our child is one way, and potentially miss the actuality in front of us. And if we don’t ever challenge what we are used to seeing, we will end up shaping our children into being what we thought they were, but who they weren’t really becoming—until we made them that way. In so many ways, they will grow into our expectations. Good or bad.

When all we focus on is what we fear our kids may be growing into, all we’ll see is the worst-case scenario. Potential and promise and hope won’t drive our parenting, but worry, dread and anxiety will.

Sure, there are things that may need shaping and changing in our kids’ lives, but sometimes in an effort to always correct we will miss the opportunity to celebrate. And let’s be honest, when we look for it, our kids give us a lot to celebrate. Pace does.

Pace is spirited. But he is also tender.
Pace is determined. But he is also a servant.
Pace is loud. But he is also everyone’s most enthusiastic cheerleader.
He is empathetic, compassionate, and on a quest to be a hero—anyone’s.
Pace is the biggest surprise, I nearly missed, right before my very eyes.

I hate to think what I might have let slip right past me if I hadn’t changed what I was looking for—a delight of a boy whose big heart makes mine grow every day.

You can always find the good or the bad if you look for it. Always. In your kids. In your circumstances. In your life.

So why not look for the good? Let your kids surprise you. And then let them see your eyes light up in the wonder of who they are.

When we do that, we might just find a different kid on our hands. A new one. Well, at least new to us. And we’ll be able to leave the mind games to internet sensations and optical illusions.

And I don’t care what anyone says, the dress was white and gold.

Sarah_Anderson_BW_144Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace. Follow her on Twitter @sarahb_anderson.