If you stoop down and catch her eyes, she will smile at you all the way to her toes.
And my 3-year-old? He'll show you his Superman sunglasses and launch into a monologue that you may not understand, while my 5-year-old blurts out that he's in kindergarten (because he's just that proud).
Maybe it's where I live, or maybe it's the era in which we all live, but people don't talk to or comment on my children much at all.
Some people give me sympathetic half-smiles in the grocery store as the baby lunges for everything in sight and I try to keep her brothers from climbing the cart like it's a rock wall. Others avoid eye contact with us altogether.
Every now and then, I get a contemptuous comment that leaves me stinging, like the time my son accidentally stepped on a dog's paw and I got an earful from the owner or the time my other son, pedaling away on a bike trail, had the audacity to get in the way of another biker.
Then there are the people — the special few — who see my kids. The neighbor down the hall who knows the boys' ages and interests and always dies over the baby's smiles. The older woman at church last week who held my little girl during services so that I could listen and she could feel the weight of an infant in her arms.
My husband and I live 700 miles away from our families.
Outside of my close friends (who have children of their own to fawn over) and the occasional FaceTime with grandparents who live afar, I have no one to share in my children's cuteness, their facetiousness or their accomplishments.
I may have a question tumbling around in my mind for which I'd like your advice. And the glimmer of adult conversation is probably far more appealing to me than you realize.
But more than anything, I need to see my children through your eyes.
These children are the babies I longed for as a preteen, playing mom for a few hours in someone else's house. They are the babies I ached for as a newlywed, the small people I've waited all my life to know.
These children are my lifeblood.
But most of the time, I can't catch that vision.
Most of the time, they are the reason I haven't slept well in five years. They are the reason it is imperative that my clothes be washable. They are the people who know how to push my buttons like no one else and who catch me every time I try to sneak a piece of dark chocolate in the kitchen.
But YOU. You help me see them as I want to.
You can't see the shift in my thinking, but I promise it is there. For the minute we are together, I see my children as you do, and I remember why I never felt truly like myself until I had them.
Whether we know each other or not, those moments of positive interaction allow me to start over. They erase the tone I took with the kids when we were trying to get out of the house — and, at least for a time, I shake the resentment that bubbles up every now and then at having to put myself last so often.
Because once again, I've caught it. I've caught the vision of who these kids are. And thanks to you, I'll hang onto it for as long as I can.
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