My kids say a lot of things throughout the day. Usually, it looks like my four-year-old running around the house carrying on a conversation with herself about a new game she made up or a new song that she knows the words to, asking me to stop whatever I’m doing and listen to her for a little bit. My son, on the other hand, isn’t quite two and is still learning how to string sentences together. He’ll babble on about the birds chirping outside or what’s happening on his favorite cartoon, but as far as dialogue goes, he’s got a little bit to learn. Today, however, my daughter said something so profound it made me do a double-take.
I was looking in the rearview mirror at myself. The car was in park and we were about to pull out of our driveway and head to the playground. It was one of those early spring days where the weather is just right outside and even though there was a threat of a thunderstorm in a few hours, it was gorgeous out and I just couldn’t keep them cooped up. I noticed my under-eye bags and my unplucked eyebrows. I saw the new, unexpected breakout on my chin. I turned to look back at my daughter, decked out in her Minne sunglasses, reading her new books from the library in her car seat. “Mama’s skin is really rough today, isn’t it?” I asked her, just wanting to hear what she could possibly say back. When you’re a stay-at-home mom, you sometimes have these sorts of conversations, where you ask a serious question in the off chance that maybe you’ll possibly get an equally serious answer in return.
I’ll never in my life forget what she said next. “Yes, mama,” she started, “but not your face.” To her, my skin and my face were totally different. My skin was just the outer layer, that one little kaleidoscope of pimples newly cropped up on my cheekbone. My face, on the other hand? That was my smile and my eyes. That was her mom. She didn’t even care about the physical blemishes because she was looking straight through them and into my heart.
There are many things I’m not good at, and I fail every day to be the amazing, hands-on, patient and attentive mom they both deserve. I make plans to create homemade apple walnut bread for lunch and by nine in the morning I’m too spent to do it. I print out DIYs for peanut butter birdhouse crafts, then get upset when the mess takes over the kitchen. I lie in bed at night and wonder sometimes what they see in me. I don’t have the personality, the skills, or the knowledge to be the perfect manager, housekeeper, chef, chauffeur, doctor, planner, and mom. Could I really be the one who hangs their stars at night, when I certainly disappoint them on a near-daily basis?
The answer is a resounding, “yes” because they don’t see the tiny, external slip-ups. They don’t see me folding laundry for too long when I should be sitting on the living room floor playing blocks with them. They don’t see me absentmindedly scrolling my phone during a cartoon commercial break when I should be turning to them and telling them how much I love them. They don’t see the burnt lasagna I made or the fact that I can’t cut a mango properly to save my life.
They see their mom, and they know my heart. They see the woman who prays over them and reads them a million bedtime books before turning off the nightlight. They see someone who runs to get a tissue every time they need to blow their nose, who walks them into preschool and beams at pick-up, who stays up until the wee hours of the morning planning the next fun day full of big events, most of which won’t really happen. It turns out, it doesn’t matter. They see intent, more than I can usually see it in myself. I’m so grateful that my children see who I really am, because I’m my most beautiful through their eyes.