You sit there seemingly harmless, hanging quietly on my bathroom wall. Sometimes I dread to look at you. At times I would rather turn off the lights and walk away. Perhaps if I wash my hands looking down I can avoid eye contact all together. It's not so much the bags under my eyes that I don't want to see, or the creases beginning to form around my face that remind me I am no longer that free spirited, unstoppable 21 year old girl of what seems was just yesterday. The physical, bodily changes are realities I have come to embrace, or at the very least are battles I've learned to surrender to a good pair of Spanx and my Clinique face tightening moisturizer. Oh Mirror Mirror, what you reflect back to me is beyond the surface; you are a lens through which I see my relationship with myself. You are the toll booth on my road to self discovery and when I look at you, I suddenly have to stop and pay the price. You leave me no choice but to ask myself that potentially painful question, "How are you doing, Rona?" Consciously, or more often subconsciously, when I look at you I am forced to take a good look, deep inside, and answer with some version of "I've got it all under control" or "I am falling apart."
Although some days looking at you is indeed rewarding- days when the groceries have been fully purchased (without forgetting that one essential item that unfailingly has me going back to the store yet again tomorrow, tantrums have been diverted, laundry has not only been folded but also put where it belongs, a delicious dinner has been made on the stove (rather than in the microwave), with even some extra time in the end to squeeze in a shower. As moms we have learned to indulge in the small victories of the day, the same ones we once took for granted. On these days, when I literally feel the universe is giving me constant high fives, I turn on the lights very bright, look straight at you while I wash my hands, and I can't help but let out a big smirk as if to say, "Ohh yah... I am Superwoman!" I guess, oh Mirror Mirror, you can say our relationship is a work in progress.
So you can imagine my mixed feelings when I realized what my mom foretold several years ago at my baby shower proved to be in fact true- "Your child will be your mirror." With a three year old now by my side, at the stage when she is clinging on to my every word and magnetizing my every gesture, I admit, "Mom was right."
Now Mirror Mirror, you are no longer simply hanging on my bathroom wall- your reach now extends beyond your four corners and in the form of my child. It's as though you have grown two hands and two feet and even a mouth with which to talk back. In my mirror child I see myself naked, exposed, and raw. It's as if all the things I didn't want to see in looking at you, oh Mirror, are forcing themselves on to me. The insecurities I've tried to mask and the imperfections I've tried to work around have somehow found their way front and center. I now not only have to face you when I'm washing my hands, but so too when I'm in the middle of my day, in the heat of all my tasks, there you are, my mirror, my child.
My sweet Child, I see you in my rearview mirror when I'm driving and because I know you are attentively watching and will reflect me I am forced to think before I respond to the crazy driver that just cut me off. I see you sitting in my shopping cart at the grocery store and
because you are diligently scrutinizing and will mirror my reaction I stop myself from using a four letter expletive when I accidentally drop a glass bottle of pasta sauce and watch it shatter all over aisle ten. I see you sitting at the dining table staring me down and because I know you are mentally recording my response I am forced to speak calmly when your baby brother marks up our freshly painted wall with a permanent marker he found from Gd knows where.
Oh Child, sweet Child, when did you become my mirror?
At first the imitating seemed innocuously cute- I would catch you walking around my room with my high heels, carrying my big purse in the same exact way I did, while I ran to get the video camera to record your every step. I kept recording when you put the toy phone on your shoulder leaning your ear into it as you paced the room pretending to have an important phone conversation with Grandma. But soon I noticed your impersonations of me were no longer of my best video worthy moments, nor were they even conscious attempts to imitate me. I soon saw that you looked to me to make sense of the world and modeled what you saw. And in you, my sweet Child, my dear Mirror, I began to see me- the good, the bad and the ugly. That's when the cameras stopped rolling.
When I would run out of patience with you and respond in a harsh tone, I would see you using the same tone with your younger brother a few hours later. When I would get visibly anxious from leaving the house late, I would see the way you would act up with that same anxiety the rest of the day. When I found myself self-consciously fidgeting with my uncooperative hair endlessly until I just gave up in frustration, I noticed the next day you mimicking me and looking more closely at your appearance in the mirror.
My sweet Child, oh Mirror, while I want to shout out and say, "Do as I say, not as I do!" I know that would paint me a foolish hypocrite in your precious eyes. How I am today so greatly affects how you will be tomorrow. What greater incentive could I possibly need to work on becoming the best I can be? While I can't promise you perfection in myself, I can promise you that I won't expect it in you either. While you may witness my flaws make their way to the surface, just know my drive to overcome them, for your sake, is even stronger. While I can only try each day to be better than the last, I ask you only to try to be patient every step of the way. And as we grow together on this journey called life, at the very least be assured, on you, I will never turn off the lights and walk away.
From the author: I am not a famous author, a world renowned psychologist, nor am I a child expert of any sort. I am simply a mother who is going through many of parenting's joys and pains, successes and failures, while documenting the journey as I go along. My intention is not so much to offer advice as it is to make mothers everywhere know that they are not alone- their experiences are universal and, if nothing else, that their feelings are heard and appreciated.
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