Back in my early days of mothering young babies-the days of colic and nights that seemed to never end, I learned something.
I learned that when the crying hadn’t stopped for hours and I was covered in spit up and sweat, with tear stains on my own cheeks from the overflow of love and exhaustion, in that moment of desperation when I felt like I could absolutely do no more, I looked into their eyes.
If I could breathe for just long enough to remember my babies were just as miserable as I was and that they didn’t want to be crying and screaming anymore than I wanted to listen to it, I’d find their eyes.
When the sounds of their innocent screams flooded my ear drums and I felt like I was about to lose what was left of my mind, I’d pull them from my chest and look directly into their sweet faces.
It was there that I found the eye of the storm. It was the only calm place that existed in the midst of our barrage of sleep deprivation and gassy bellies some nights.
Those early months can really weigh on us.
There were days it felt like I did nothing but sway babies trying to keep some semblance of peace in our atmosphere. I’ve found that effort for peace doesn’t end when the baby years end. It changes as time goes on, but I believe it remains threaded through all of parenthood (which is forever.)
Nevertheless, the presence of that never felt so distinct to me than in the infant days. And yet, I have been profoundly reminded of it again as of late.
As a mama, you just want your children to be happy and healthy. If they’re healthy but not happy, that doesn’t do. And so you sway. You sing. You bounce. You burp. You dance. You swaddle. You snuggle. You feed. You swing. You walk. You wrap. You drive. You do anything and everything to help them find their happy again.
At the peak of those helpless moments though, those moments that nothing is working and you’re just standing in the middle of the night holding that wailing baby in your weary arms, there’s a point at which you can feel yourself slipping. Losing patience. Losing hope.
In those moments, I found their eyes.
Their eyes brought me back.
I’d stare into their beautiful rheumy eyeballs and somehow, despite any crying that continued, I was reminded of where my focus needed to be. I was reminded that we were in this together. I was reminded that they felt even more desperate in those moments than I did and I needed to be their calm.
It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of parenting and life. To be drowned out by the noise-both created by others and that created within ourselves.
Three and a half years and three babies later, I still use this practice. Not always, but I try.
When I am feeling lost, I find their eyes.
When they feel lost, they find mine.
I think we forget to look each other in the eye too often- adults and children alike. And I don’t mean just look at each other. I mean really see each other. Really look. When I do that; when I truly find their eyes, humanity comes back.
True connection comes back. A soul attachment happens.
Whether it is my children or a stranger on the street, I have found that looking them in their eyes brings us back to the same world.
It allows space for understanding and empathy. It seals off the outside influences and zones us into each other, if even for a moment.
For my sons, it reminds me I’m right there with them. That they need me. That I need them. That I am enough for them. That they are human just like me, with their own worlds of feelings and emotions and experiences they are discovering. That sometimes they hurt and when their insides are storming, my eyes are their calm. And that sometimes, when my insides are storming, their eyes can be my calm too.
Their eyes reflect their life. My life. Our life.
For people in the world-strangers and friends- looking in their eyes reminds me they’re just human like me. That they’re just here doing their best. Finding their way. That they hurt. That they have a world of experiences and insights gained from their past and an unknown sphere of life yet to be lived in their future. If you look into their eyes, you get to see them.
It reminds me that the depth of a person is found in the eye of their storm, no matter how old they are.
We’re not all that different.
Our tantrums and struggles change as we get older and our lives unfold; but from infancy to adulthood, we are just all figuring out our own storms and trying to find the core of that gale. We are all in need of someone to look into our eyes and help us find the center of ourselves. The calm within us. The soul inside us. The human in us.
So when your baby is crying, look into his eyes. When your child is fighting, when your friend is hurting, when your partner is simmering, when your neighbor is mean, when your co-worker is tired; look into their eyes.
Human connection is the eye of the storm.
From our first breath to our last, we need each other; and we find people best when we look into their eyes.