Today, while sitting in a cramped little hopper plane, I noticed something interesting about babies (and kids in general). They’re unofficially allowed to smile at others while making eye contact, for more than 10 seconds. Adults are NOT. Let me explain.
A few aisles up there was a baby about nine months old. He was busy giggling, clapping, and smiling. (Exactly what everyone wants from babies on airplanes.) This little boy was just plain happy. I noticed him trying to make eye contact with a babyboomer in the aisle in front of him. When the guy saw that he “had been picked” he immediately made eye contact back and smiled from ear to ear. He then proceeded to play peek-a-boo with the little boy. It was fun to watch. They were sharing an “intimate” moment….eyes locked, mirroring smiles. It was really neat. It sounds cheesy to say this, but it was really quite beautiful.
Adult are not allowed to connect with other adults in this way. If you were in the same position as the babyboomer and you turned your head and saw a thirty-year-old guy making eye contact with you and smiling, would you proceed to lock eyes and smile back?
“No way. What a psycho!” Right? “Why is that guy staring at me? What a weirdo!”
We know that it’s interpreted as creepy to look for too long, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep our heads down all of the time. As we move through adolescence and into adulthood we stop making eye contact for an extended amount of time. Kids have a free ticket to connect with others in this way. It’s funny because kids even play games that force them to stare in each other’s eyes. Ever have a staring contest when you were little?
When I was in college I was a part of a student ministry team at my church. At one of our leadership retreat days we did an activity that reminds me of what I witnessed today. Basically you had to pair up with the person next to you and stare into each other’s eyes for a solid five minutes. (No looking away.)
That was the longest five minutes of my entire life.
It was difficult. After the activity we all talked about it being difficult and analized why that was. People shared that it somehow felt like you were naked, exposed, vulnerable. You were sharing your soul, just by looking into each other’s eyes for that long. It’s not comfortable to share your soul with others. It’s often messy, filled with hurt, fear and insecurities. The retreat leader told us that the activity is especially important for married couples to do on a regular basis. If you’ve never done this with your spouse, do it! It’s a very unique experience.
Doing the activity made me question a lot of things.
Why don’t I make eye contact more often?
Why was that activity so hard?
What am I trying to hide?
Kids have a lot to teach us “grown-ups” about eye contact.
[tags]eye contact, kids, babies, staring[/tags]