We all know it. We’ve all seen it. “The gleam.” It lifts and lightens in a way that captures an essence of togetherness and joy. A child delights with mischievous intent or a little twinkle that shows raised interest. A child’s beaming countenance has its greatest meaning when tied to a significant relationship. It is endearing and warm, palpable. “The gleam” identifies that there is a connection made within the interaction, giving hope for greater opportunities to unite.
First, in the dance of interactions, we hope to see a reaction from the caregiver to a gleam in the eye. Does an equal reaction have the potential to happen? Yes. Always? No.
At times, there is a beautiful visible connection. The parent sees the import of the sometimes subtle, other times brilliant gesture of “the gleam” in their child’s eye. When there is a congruent reaction the parent moves into, rather than away from, the child’s world to play, to “be” together and to “do” what is most intriguing for the child—no matter what it is. Twirling. Exploring flowers or caterpillars. Singing. The two connect and it has the potential to flow effortlessly.
At others times, rather than see the gleam in a positive light, perhaps a child glances, smiling in a grocery store and then darts toward the candy. The caregiver’s reaction to “the gleam” may be opposite. Understandable right? How many are trying to get to the check-out line and there might be safety concern of fleeing of a little one? The speedy light-hearted dash might even feel like an inconvenience. Perhaps, this interaction is a missed opportunity to engage. The playful timing was off, unexpected, and these mismatched moments happen. The emotional reaction may be entirely opposite the child’s delightful smile. Missed timing and unrequited response may occur. But, nonetheless, “the gleam” is there.
Sometimes signals match to their detriment. Most likely at these times, “the gleam” turns to “the glare” with the potential to end in a tumultuous battle of forces resulting in a rupture. With upsets or aggression as communication, if a child’s behavior or intent is misunderstood, the ensuing results do not align relationships, but rather pulls them apart. Working to realign the forces takes effort.
Yet, there is ubiquitous opportunity to join in “the gleam” with the same robust force and attraction. We look for a type of magnetism in real life, human relationships. This experience can manifest eloquently when the joining together has potential for fluidity within our interactions. We strive for making the connection. By placing understanding at the forefront, we note “the gleam” or even “the glare” as clinicians and guide the caregiver to capitalize; to essentially move into, rather than away from these experiences whether they bring joy or discomfort.
Relationships are filled with tender moments and embodied profound life experiences. Interactions within relationships can be nuanced, subtle or powerful forces. As the caregiver moves in to join, the interaction is tailored and/or titrated for “just right” matches. The reaction may be equal like a sustained bright smile to a child’s caper or it may be contingent, yet unequal moving at a slower pace which supports a gentle response to calm and unite with the child. These sculpted adjustments are the interconnection of art within the science. To learn to sensitively attune to a child’s emotional bids be it “the gleam” or “the glare.”
When there are aligned visible calibrated relational forces, the process of bonding unfolds. The relationship is shaped, the connection is made. It is a gift. We see, not only “the gleam” in the child’s eye, but also just as important “the gleam,” either welcoming or mirrored, in their loved and cherished caregiver.
Your child is ready for your warm visual embrace.
Stay there awhile.
The well know phrase, “Go for the gleam in the eye,” was coined by the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan, co-founder of DIR model with Dr. Serena Wieder. He used the phrase to guide DIR® clinicians and families in Floortime® to watch for the opportunities for parents to engage and support following the child’s intentions that build development and relationships in play-based learning.
Author: Stacy Sue Rosello, MA, OTR/L
Founder, Embrace the Child, ® Ltd.
Editor: Grace Anne Rosello, BA
Copyright © 2020 Stacy Sue Rosello