My husband and I are preparing to sell our first home. The one we bought together as man & wife, the one in which 2 of our 3 babies took their first steps and the one we celebrated Christmases and birthdays. It’s a good house. I love it, but that’s because I know it. The trick is getting someone else to see the same value in it.
And so we re-painted the rooms, pruned the bushes out front, and threw in a couple new appliances to make it look even more spectacular. Then we took another look around, with everything all cleaned up. With fresh eyes, we tried to see what the others would see when they looked at the thing that meant so much to us.
This week has been rough. I feel like there’s a better word for it, a more eloquent person could probably call it to mind. But, I don’t know, for me, it was just rough. Two black men died at the hands of police officers and a lot of people had a lot to say. They had their words together, probably half-prepared because it seems to be happening more regularly now. Those smart, well-spoken people had the right words to say to express the pain and frustration that’s bubbling just beneath the surface around us. Not me. Mostly I just cried.
See, we teach our kids manners like most folks do. We expect them to be respectful and kind, to look out for one another and do what’s right even if mommy & daddy aren’t around and, yes, occasionally we have to give them a bit of leniency when they’re having a day where learning those things is a little too hard. They’re 6, 4 and almost 2 so I get it. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
But when I send them out, when I’m not around, and they’re being observed by others, I wonder what those fresh eyes see. My oldest daughter is a handful. She’s smart and funny, quick-witted like her mom. She’s sassy. Sandra Bland talked back though. My baby boy is probably the most easy-going of the bunch. He’s eager to please and so loving, he’s a mama’s boy and doesn’t care who knows it. He’s not shy, he’s actually quite playful, really the life of the party. I wonder if Tamir Rice was the same. My littlest baby is a spark plug, strong and fiery already. My husband and I sit up at night sometimes and laugh as we guess how her personality will grow in the coming years. We’re still learning so much about her every day and I’m glad we have that chance, Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ parents don’t.
But back to this week, I think my fear is showing. My oldest has picked up on my uneasiness. She’s the sensitive one like me. She’s been pushing back against my unreasonable sullenness. Mommy, who’s been particularly tired and alternating between wanting endless hugs and pleading with the 3 of them to “just behave, please!” is starting to get on her 6-year-old’s nerves. Amidst our many arguments, she’s gotten big on telling her daddy and me lately, “I’m growing up, mom, geez!”
I know you’re growing, I want to say, and I want to keep it that way.
It’s hard, remembering to look at your kids with those fresh eyes. It can wear you down. We’re always so anxious to catch a misstep before they make it because, god forbid, a mistake is made in front of the wrong person at the wrong time. Who knows if a stranger will be as lenient? Always watching closely and keeping a pair of fresh eyes on them to make sure they don’t look like the type of brown babies that scare other people the way Trayvon Martin or Renisha McBride did.
Because that’s what it all boils down to, how someone else sees you, not necessarily who you are. How frustrating that all the preparation in the world might not even matter. But I try not to focus on that possibility, it would drive a person crazy. To imagine your babies, your loved ones, your friends taken away for no reason. For doing the right thing or not doing it quickly enough or even for following directions. For just being. No, a person can’t live like that.
And so my husband and I will do what we can, cross our fingers and say our prayers and keep those fresh eyes on them and hope, when it’s all said and done that the people they interact with see their value. And that when they look into our babies’ eyes, they see how special they are and know that those 3 heartbeats are our home.