Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mom Eyes

You know Mom Eyes?

It's like how, before you have kids, you might have a dark and cynical sense of humor, and then after, you weep at diaper commercials or photos of Boy Scouts. Mom Eyes, in my experience anyway, often leak.

Also, Mom Eyes open wide with awe at certain things. Say, a grocery cart brimming over with food and toddler while guided down aisle after aisle by a man. Other eyes might overlook this magical sight completely, but not Mom Eyes, or at least not mine.

In no way do I presume or assume that Mom Eyes have superiority over other eyes. Mine, I know, do not. I do not ascribe one trait such as compassion to all mothers or lack of it to everyone else. I am only saying that when I developed Mom Eyes, things shifted. Not better or worse, just a little softer on the focus, and with some strange zooming habits.

Mine zoom in rapidly on dangers, bargain toys, potential babysitters, all things autism, and family stories unfolding, just to name a few.

It's like that time I flew back from a conference, and my flight got delayed by like a jillion years, and I got rerouted, and then after having an empty seat next to mine in which I could belatedly but blissfully sleep off my sullenness, I saw a flight attendant escorting some tall, smelly guy my way. Or at least that is what I saw at first. Then, shift. Click. Mom Eyes kicked in with the zoom feature. I saw the soldier coming back from Iraq, and when he told me he had been flying "home" for over 30 hours so far, I saw in a flash his wife, his kids, and, most of all, his mom. As he kept subtly putting his hand gingerly to his knee, which had shrapnel in it, for some reason my Mom Eyes pictured him as a little boy who hurt himself on a playground. The image made no sense, but my mind's eye went there anyway. When he talked about his wife having to drive the kids an hour or two out of the way to pick him up due to our rerouting, I had to close my eyes tightly for a few moments so that I would not cry, sensing that crying would not be doing this strong, worn out warrior any favors.

I knew without a doubt that my eyes saw things differently on that airplane than they would have about five years before, and I knew that it was because I too looked forward to going home to family I had missed even over the course of just days - home to J and the rooster. In fact, I was carrying Peaches then, in my second trimester, and you know what hormones do to vision and perspective. I have to say, it can burdensome, but I also count it a blessing, having my Mom Eyes.

I got a call not too long ago from my mom back East, telling me she had heard on television the name of a boy I knew in high school. I sort of dated this boy, sort of befriended him, and we helped each other out with this and that. This boy had been at war once, too, serving in the Gulf while I went to college, but he had left the Marines only to be shot, it turns out, on home soil this summer. According to what my mom heard on the news, a girlfriend shot him and put him in the hospital with serious injuries. When my mother first said his name, it put me back in high school mode for a minute. The concept of what she said she heard on the news at first sounded so preposterous, so surreal, it seemed for an instant like a joke. Of course, injuries are no lauging matter. But my knee jerk reaction had been to think, "Oh, that M. Such the flirt/lady's man/thrill seeker. This must be quite a sexy story." Then I Googled it, and sexy it was not. Tragic. Heart-breaking.

M is still in the hospital, in a long-term acute care rehab facility now, and the woman who shot him took her own life, according to the local newspaper where M now lives. I've known just the sketchy details of all this for about two months and I have thought of it often with great sadness. I guess due to the distance and the high school connection, and my inability to find out more information, Mom Eyes didn't kick in; I sent plenty of good thoughts M's way, but that re-focus mechanism didn't jar me into that acute, exquisite sense of vulnerability until today. My dear friend, C, a doctor in our hometown, texted me to say that M's mother is her patient. She also wrote that M's rehabilitation is "slow." M's mother is devastated, a wreck, heartsick, scared. Click. Shift. Of course she is. This is no longer a one paragraph news story onto which I can project a simple resolution; I can see the tragedy vividly now. C also texted that she conveyed my concern and good wishes, and that M's mother remembers me from way back when. With this, the leaking.

And so I guess my point is this: My Mom Eyes see and remember that we are all someone's child. M is. So was the woman who put him in the hospital. A blessing and a burden, this perspective.

Shift. Click.


gretchen said...

Mmmmmm. Really good post- this might be one of your best. Thanks.

I've been noticing the "mom eyes" effect as I watch the Olympics- specifically Michael Phelps- his mom and sisters and... no dad. Ouch. He climbs up there to hug his family and I think about all the hours they've put in to his training and how much harder it probably was without another grownup to help, and how hard it is for a boy to grow up without a dad...

Definitely a different perspective than I would have had Before Kids.

pixiemama said...

Excellent post (and so glad you're "back")

I had a similar experience with an old high school beau when I was not yet a mom. This dear friend had a brain tumor shortly after we had graduated from college. I couldn't wrap my mind around it.

Fast forward 14 years, one month after my own son has a massive brain tumor removed and his future is uncertain, and I get an email out of the blue from the very same beau. I hadn't heard from him in at least 10 years, and the universe/God sent him back to me to be a source of comfort and experience in a time of dire need.

Even when I had learned of his health struggles years ago, I thought of his dear, sweet, quiet mom, and how she must have felt. Now I know.

Joeymom said...

Yes, what can be stranger is watching other people get them. I was the first of my friends to have kids, and I think they thought the way my perspective changed was really... odd.

Then they started having babies.

I actually had one call and apologize for giving me child-rearing lectures for years.

And with my Mom eyes, I now also have Special Needs Eyes. Screaming children take on a whole new dimension. The "wild child" on the playground is so clearly ADHD, or SPD, or even autistic... and you really can't say much to the poor mom, who thinks the struggles she is having are "normal" or her own fault, except, "wow, that looks familiar. Can I help?" or other invitations to let them talk...

Niksmom said...

Excellent post. It's all about finding the common threads we share as humans.