This post was originally published 10.13.09I didn't think I would ever forget something little S said to me a couple of years ago. But I did! I didn't literally forget it.....I just forgot the lesson I learned from it. Something nudged it back from the recesses of my mind today, and I realized it is a lesson I need to re-learn and live.
Let me tell you the story. A couple of years ago, I was finally back at home after L's first long hospital stay. I was trying to catch up with everything. Literally, everything. Besides all the things that needed to be done around the house, and for the children, and all of the crazy medical procedures I was doing at home for L, I was still trying to keep up with a small home business. I don't like to use the word "stupid, but I was really stupid when it came to running this business. Business is just not my thing. I'm not sure what possessed me to do it. But I did, and I had to keep doing it. And it meant I had to spend a lot of time on the computer doing marketing things, and custom designs, and placing orders for people.
That question got my attention. "Impressive," I thought to myself. "She's learned that she can't get away with anything, and thinks I have some kind of superhuman vision capabilities or an extra set of eyes that help me detect misbehavior--now she wants her own set! I must be really on the ball." But I played dumb. "What kind of mommy eyes do you mean?" I replied.
"You know," S prompted me, "the kind of eyes you have. The kind that let you see my picture and so you can tell me how pretty it is without even looking." She smiled up at me warmly, genuinely interested in my response.
Is that what I'd been doing? Mumbling about the pretty picture she'd drawn when I hadn't really looked at it? Is that who I had become? I never intended to be that woman. I had a long list of thoughtful, introspective discussions I had planned to have with my children about their artwork long before I even had children! Discussions like, "Wow, you used a lot of colors when you made this picture. Tell me why you used purple over here." Or here's another good one, "This picture must have a very interesting story to go with it. Tell it to me."
I had gone on Mommy Auto Pilot. Or Mommy Cruise Control. Or I was faxing it in. Or something. Whatever it was, it wasn't right. But Sariah was still looking up at me, waiting for an answer. "You'll get those eyes, someday...." I said weakly. "......someday after your second child is born. That's when mommies usually get their mommy eyes."
I may be right about when we get them, but should we keep them? I think mommy eyes are like wisdom teeth, which we don't keep: not very useful, and they can get in the way and cause big problems if you don't watch out. Going along with that metaphor, I'd have to say that mommy eyes can be just as painful to get rid of as the wisdom teeth. You know, you get used to them after a while. You hardly even notice they are there. They might even come in handy now and then. But dependence upon mommy eyes really isn't healthy for anyone.
So what is the alternative? I haven't put a lot of thought into what the opposite of mommy eyes should be called ("daddy eyes" doesn't seem to cut it), so let's just go with "Mother eyes." Note the capital M. I'm going to begin a list, right here, of what I think my Mother eyes are capable of.
1. Looking at the children's artwork/craft projects/smiley face homework/collections. Not just glancing at them, but really looking. Seeing the effort that has gone into the making, and appreciating that effort. And being able to enjoy the fact that they want me to look.
2. Seeing beyond the tantrums/sassy responses/negative responses/grunts. Stopping my own impatient reply to gain insight into what is causing the child to respond like that. Taking the time to soothe and reassure.
3. Looking at the messes and disorder and sixteen shoes scattered in various parts of the house, and appreciating the fact that it is a small price to pay for the love my children give me.
4. Putting a positive spin on the parts of parenting that are difficult for me. For instance, teaching J to get his work done in a timely fashion is not easy. But my Mother eyes can help me think of the long term rewards and persevere.
5. Reminding me that "this, too, shall pass"......and I'll miss it when it does.
My list could be longer, but that's enough to get me started. What can can Mother eyes do for you? I'd love to hear your ideas.
I'll end with two favorite pictures of me using my Mother eyes.