I’ve been holding my babies close this week, trying to take in every sweet moment. Of course, as I write this, my four-year-old is licking my arm trying to get my attention. So, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t THAT close, but you know what I mean.
It’s important to me that I take the time to see them. I mean, really see them. Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the dirty dishes and piles of laundry waiting to be done, the temper tantrums, feedings and the diaper smell that never seems to leave the baby’s room.
But, as I was holding my baby boy last night, he fell asleep on my chest holding my finger tightly. I felt at that moment that there couldn’t be anything better. I stroked his soft, puffy cheeks and studied his long, blonde eyelashes. I listened for his contented sighs as he drifted into dreamland. As I bathed in his closeness, an old forgotten song popped into my head, and I haven’t been able to get it out.
It’s a song by R.E.M. that I listened to repeatedly in my lonely, teenage angst-y days. It’s called, “At my most beautiful.” It says,
At my most beautiful
I count your eyelashes, secretly.
With every one, whisper I love you. I let you sleep.
I know you’re closed eye watching me, listening.
I thought I saw a smile.
I’ve found a way to make you smile
I’ve found a way
A way to make you smile
I’m pretty sure that Michael Stipe wasn’t writing about putting his baby to sleep, but nonetheless it felt like a perfect description of my life at that moment. And I realized something wonderful.
So much of my life as a mother feels like a tug-of-war. Sometimes I feel content in who I am and all the beauty that I have in my family. And then other times, I feel the loss of what I used to be. I worry about what I look like, what I weigh, the back fat that shows through my shirts. I compare myself now to the much more beautiful version of me that existed before I gave myself over to motherhood.
Listening to that song made me realize that what is really, truly beautiful about me is that which is seen through my children’s eyes. Yes, they know my face and what I look like on the outside, but that’s not the “me” that’s important to them. My outward self is only the shell for the beautiful part- the parts that take care of them, comfort them, teach them, speak encouraging words, laugh and play with them. It’s the washing of skinned knees, the sacrifice of sleepless nights, the wiping away of tears.
It felt good to realize that as I take the time to really see them, they can really see me, too. The love I have for them is reflected back into my soul, filling me up.
It’s in my children’s eyes- that’s when I can see the beauty that is all of me.