“I watch you all the time. Every day, I’m watching you.”
I freeze. I feel scared- vulnerable. I wonder how fast I can run, barefoot and clad only in a ratty bathrobe. I can feel the penetrating stare boring a hole into my back… watching, watching- waiting. But, I can’t escape- can’t run.
How long has this been going on? How much has she seen? My mind reeling, I try to take a quick inventory of all my sins. Better to go into the inquisition prepared, I think. I remember everything at once, all the ways that I’ve failed.
“Mommy, did you HEAR me?”
The voice startles me again and my mind snaps back to the current danger. She’s demanding an answer. I turn to her slowly, afraid to make any sudden moves. She’s been watching me.
“W-w-w-what… did…you…say?” I ask, haltingly, timidly.
“You asked me if I knew how to put on my tights and I said, “I watch you all the time.”
The tights! Yes, the tights. It’s just the tights. Well, and, yesterday, she asked me to flat-iron her hair the way that I do mine. Oh- and once last week, she wanted to try a little bit of my blush!
It’s all coming back to me now and I tentatively relax my shoulders. “I can handle this,” I say to myself, under my breath, knowing- as I say it- that it’s a lie. After all, if she’s seen the stockings, the hair, the make-up, then surely she’s noticed the obsessive way that I avoid carbs during the months of March, April, and May. I look down and realize the scale has been moved- she’s been weighing! Has she seen that, too? The way that I count down every pound hoping that someday I’ll reach my (totally unrealistic) goal weight?
She’s been watching me!
It’s not like I didn’t know this- of course, I knew it. But now it hits me: she’s been watching, and hearing, EVERYTHING! Not just the good stuff, like when I help her and her brother with their homework, or kiss away their fears/injuries/anger, or take them to the movies. I mean, sure, she sees me loving my family and friends; she sees me vote; she sees me go to work every day- all good things, it’s true. But- Oh my God!- hasn’t she also heard me say that I’m fat? That I’m old? That my nose is too big and my skin is too dry? That I have “nothing to wear?!?!?!?!”
How could I have missed this? How could I not have seen that she needs me to be healthy and strong all the way around? Not just in the way that I act towards her and her brother, or to my friends, or to my coworkers, but in how I treat myself? I have to start loving myself- taking CARE of myself- so that my kids know how to take care of themselves. I finally see the light!! I feel reborn, renewed, re-
“Ummm… Mom? Are you gonna take me to school now, or what? I’ve got my tights on, I said. Duh!”
(Why is there never enough time to analyze all the epiphanies we have during parenthood?)
(This post was originally published on the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood blog.)