There you are.
I always whisper it to them, my babies, when their gaze locks with mine. Ah. There you are. We smile and coo and make faces and all is right with the world as we look into each other's eyes.
I get it, now, why the toddler is so intent on seeing her eyes. "Where did her eyes go?" he asked at first, whenever she was sleeping. "I want to see her eyes."
(It took a couple days to convince him not to pull her eyelids open whenever they were closed.)
She fusses, squirms, cries, looks wildly around the room or scrunches her eyes shut tight. I whisper her name softly, lean closer until her eyes catch mine. "There you are," I smile, and she calms.
* * *
He's two, so very two, and some days I weary of the crying. I want to empathize but I also want to roll my eyes, it's just a toy, calm down, dismissing him right along with his feelings.
But I pull him onto my lap instead and as I do, I catch his own searching gaze. And there are his eyes, his wide toddler eyes with their beautiful long lashes, right now so very sad over the injustice that occurred over that toy.
Ah. There he is. And I can dismiss him no longer.
* * *
He's five and his words come out angry, passionate, and I fire back with passionate anger of my own. "You will not speak to me that way! I am your mother! You will not be rude to me!"
He defends himself, I yell more about his constant arguing with me, he defends again, I yell again. Such a foolish endless cycle.
"I'm not trying to be bad! I never try to be bad!" He yells it through his tears and I know it's true, I know his good heart, but it's so easy to pretend otherwise when I'm not looking at him. It's so easy to pretend he's doing it on purpose, he should know better!, easier to criticize wrong than it is to teach right.
But I lift my eyes and look into his and I can't deny it any longer.
Ah. There you are. I'm so sorry I stopped seeing you.
* * *
I've been holding the baby all evening as she fights sleep. My head hurts and my work remains undone but at last she gives in. I leave the room for a glass of water and there are the dinner dishes, there is the afternoon mess on the living room floor, there is more work to add to my list of not done.
I give him the cold shoulder, refuse to even look at him. The words fly hot and fast inside my head but outside is only the icy silence. He asks a question and I shrug wordlessly, keep my gaze focused firmly on the dishes I'm now washing.
If I look at him then he'll see the hurt behind my anger. Anger protects me; I've never been good at vulnerability. And I know that as soon as I let myself look at him, my anger will fade, it always does when I see the concern in his eyes. He may be thoughtless at times, but not intentionally so, and his eyes always reveal the truth in that.
But I can't avoid it forever. Eventually I look.
Yes, there you are. I remember now.