On Monday I took Vera to ballet class, as usual.
And as usual, I spent the majority of her class time chasing after Juliette who crawled around the anteroom with the other babies, trying to put every pair of tap shoes she could find into her mouth. But every few minutes I made sure to pop up and stick my face in the viewing window to catch a glimpse of Veronica. Each time I would wait for her to look up and see me there, her eyes changing from hopeful into a smile, when she saw me watching.
As soon as she looked away again though I’d turn back to my other girl, watching her too. And for one hour this dance between the two continued. Something about it this past Monday really struck me though. This thing of making sure my girls know that I see them.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve received more messages from readers than ever before. All of them about loss, about grief, many of them about being motherless, and also about being mothers. The messages have pulled me open in this hard, beautiful way. Each story, each life in words sitting there in my inbox, is something so unique and painful and perfect. And it’s not that I don’t think about loss all the time, or parental loss all the time, because I do, I do, but with every story shared I see a new depth to it all.
And this Monday standing there in the ballet studio with my girls, seeing them, watching them, watching them watch for me, it all seemed so simple and obvious what it is our parents do for us. They see us. They see us in this way that no one else does. They look at us and they see someone that they love more than anyone in the whole world, they see someone they want to protect and nurture and lavish. They see the future and everything that could be.
It’s the best feeling in the world.
But what happens when that is suddenly taken away from us? When my mother died when I was 18, all of that seeing disappeared. No wonder I felt lost in the world, adrift, hungry for someone, anyone to see me. It breaks my heart to think about.
And it’s also painfully obvious all the ways in which I’ve sought to been seen ever since.
This kind of seeing? It’s such a simple thing, really. But one that I never truly understood until I became a mother myself.
I know that my big lesson in life will always be about learning how to see myself, without needing others to help me do it. And now I know that’s something I want to try to teach my girls as well. But for now? While they’re little like this? I’m going to keep making sure they know I’m watching, even when they think I’m not.