Through all the sound and the tears I saw her eyes for what seemed like the first time. I look into those eyes every day. I want the connection. I want her to know that I am paying attention. I want her to see that I hear her. And I want her to look into mine for all the same reasons. But tonight, as I knelt in front of her trying to translate the thunder of my 5 year old daughter into my own language, her words disappeared and all I saw was her eyes. They looked wet and confused and tired and exactly like mine.
And I was reminded just how much she is me.
She looks just like her mom. I know her so well. These cheeks and that walk and those lips. This little girl looks and moves like that one must have when her young sandy hair was still straight. Often I watch her when she doesn’t know that I am and all I see is her mom. And just like I do with her mom, I get lost in her. Her hands and thoughts always seem to be moving. Her ideas are vivid and inevitable. Her power is undisguised but she doesn’t always remember that it’s there.
But those eyes are unmistakably me (tragically, too, considering what her mother’s eyes look like). They are deep brown and they can dance between focused and distant so quickly. They are quick to dissect and slow to sleep. Seeing yourself so precisely in your children’s features can be a bizarre feeling – a concrete reminder that this little person is you in much more than a metaphorical way.
I watch her create worlds and struggle with her own. I watch her will herself into solitude. And I watch her feel sad a lot.
I wish she didn’t get some of the parts of me that she seems to have gotten. I wish those eyes that look so much like mine weren’t such accurate windows to her soul, as the saying goes. I wish they just looked dark and heavy.
Kneeling there in front of her sadness and inability to know where it comes from, I found myself doing what I too often do. I was talking too much. I was thinking too much. I wanted to show her that she could just stop. Then I saw them, my eyes crying in front of me and I finally shut up. For a second I just held her and then I told her to look at me, to look into my eyes. I didn’t say it this time like I do when I am the dad that wants to be heard and respected. I said it like the dad that feels like that too sometimes. I told her to look at my eyes and how much they look like hers. I told her that I am just like her. I told her I understand.
For the first time in her life, I really think I did understand. I have never wanted to feel like I do sometimes. I am nearly forty years old and most of the time I have no idea how to get myself back out of that place. Yet, I expect her to. I expect my 5 year old daughter to do something that I can’t.
I hugged her for a long time and told her again that I understand. I almost told her that I was sorry that I gave that part of me to her, that I was sorry that I gave her my eyes, but I didn’t because she wouldn’t know what to do with that. Instead I told her that I wished that I could take it away from her and she said “but then you would have it, daddy”. I told her that I do and that is why I understand. We decided that it was okay to have our eyes and that together we could get through anything. We decided it was nice to share something so hard with someone we love so much.
The tears didn’t stop for the night, but they stopped for a while. Maybe our tears aren’t supposed to stop. Maybe they are something we are supposed to share. I certainly don’t know the answers to all of it, but tonight, when I looked in my daughter’s eyes, everything became much clearer.