Daniel Raeburn, a brilliant essayist, once said, “Facing a mirror you see merely your own countenance; facing your child you finally understand how everyone else has seen you.” Daniel Raeburn clearly never met Ryan. Or me.
First, I should tell you that Ryan is a smart kid… always has been. At 20 months old, she went through her ‘mine’ phase. I was (very) tired of it. When her cousin picked up something (that belonged to my mother), Ryan looked at her and said, “MINE!” Frustrated, I said, “Ryan, so help me, if I hear ‘mine’ one more time…” (OK, so it was an empty threat but I sounded scary). She looked at me and then back at Elizabeth and said, very defiantly, “It’s not yours!” (Yes, I knew at that moment I was in trouble). She was the first one in her kindergarten class to read (and in the 4th grade now, she reads at a 9th grade level). At six, she hid under her covers with a flashlight after she was supposed to be asleep to read the fourth Harry Potter. Her vocabulary and command of the rules of grammar and language are impressive. And she only missed one question on each of the (God-forsaken, devil-inspired ‘No Child Left Behind’) SOL’s last year. As I say… smart. And incredibly observant. And detail oriented. So detail oriented.
All that being as it is, the way she sees me perplexes me. She is truly an example of ‘love is blind.’ Since her earliest memories, I’ve worked from home. This means I rarely get out of my sweats, running shoes, and a ponytail. When I go ‘out to dinner’ (also known as 'a date', but Ryan doesn’t like the idea of me dating), I do wash and dry my hair and put on my ‘dressy’ jeans… but that’s about it. I can put up a tent in 5 minutes flat but when I put nail polish on, it looks like a Parkinsons patient did it. So when we (rarely) go to the mall and she has to (HAS TO) stop by the dressy dress section of whatever store we’re in (‘cause she’s a girly-girl at heart), I’m flabbergasted when she picks out some slinky, silky evening gown and says, “Oh Mama, this would look amazing on you!” Oh, and to boot, she usually picks out a size 2. I’m SO not a size 2 (nor would I look good in anything that would look good on a size 2). Then there are the shoes… 3 ½ inch heels that would cripple me in about 5 minutes. And the jewelry… oh the sparkles that child puts on me in her fashionista visions!
She started doing this when she was 3 or 4 and it was SO cute. She used to have all the other ladies in the store just ‘awwwww’-ing all over the place. Now they smile indulgently at her and snort behind their purses. This is how I know Daniel Raeburn was wrong about facing your child and understanding how everyone else sees you. Ryan sees me as beautiful and elegant and worthy of gorgeous, expensive, ridiculously fancy dresses. Everyone else sees me the way I see me.
But you know what? I don’t really give a crap how everyone else sees me. I’m going to work a little harder on seeing myself the way Ryan does. She loves me more than anyone on the planet and maybe love IS blind… but maybe (just maybe) it’s not.