The mouth-watering smell of turkey fills the house. A dog barks at a toy in the playroom, and then scratches at the door to go outside to the fenced-in backyard. In the front two brothers kick a soccer ball with other kids from their neighborhood. The mom rushes in from the kitchen into the family room and sees: strewn pillows, dirty socks, muddy paw prints, and empty cups underscoring a dozen unwelcome tasks to complete before her guests arrive.
You want the truth about temporary blindness? I think you can handle it.
There are many aspects of personhood that are enhanced when one becomes a parent. Bad choice ESP, a sixth sense about the location of missing/otherwise invisible items, and eyes in the back of the head are a few useful improvements many moms enjoy.
But while these super powers come in handy, having kids can also trigger unwanted deficiencies in the mind of the mother. Sometimes the same woman who saw an older sibling poke his younger brother in the ribs as he casually strolled past in a remote corner behind an overstuffed chair two rooms away cannot see what is right in front of her face.
That is, the really good stuff of her life.
Just like our hapless spouses and distracted kids can’t see the peanut butter jar that is literally right in front of their face on the shelf, requiring your involvement to “find” it, sometimes our mom eyes don’t have 20/20 vision when scoping out our own lives. One reason why: there is a lot that feels legitimately hard about this gig.
When my oldest son was six months old a massive ice storm overwhelmed Charlotte. Throughout the night we listened to the deceptively benign sound of freezing rain and sleet coating the city, the precipitation’s soft tinkling rhythm like champagne glasses mirthfully consummating a million toasts, one after the other. The sweet sound belied a treacherous result that became clear when the power lines froze and the electricity went out, and the gentle clinking was replaced with the distressing sound of trees breaking in half and crashing to the ground.
Given all that was happening we brought the baby into our room, into the bed, and snuggled to keep warm as the temperatures plummeted. The next morning before the sun was up I called and made reservations at a hotel uptown that had power, but hoped that our electricity would be restored before I had to use them.
The next day I commiserated with a friend who also was dealing with ice storm chaos. We agreed that this was a complete nightmare! My child was wearing multiple layers of clothing while I packed up a portable high chair, a gazillion bottles of baby food, various baby paraphernalia, and bags packed for my husband and me. As we finally turned down the street in front of our hotel after inching down our icy neighborhood roads, we encountered a long line of cars waiting to check in. Once inside it looked like we had landed at the entrance line to a twisted Disneyland . . . everywhere you turned there were parents and kids and babies and suitcases and diaper bags and strollers and screaming and crying. I remembered the way it once felt when I checked into hotels pre-kids, and marveled that the feeling on this night was exactly the opposite of what I experienced every other time before.
My friend had it even worse. Her husband was out of town while she evacuated with her son born the same week as mine, as well as with a two-year-old in tow. They checked into another hotel with her parents, who took her baby boy into their room to sleep in a dresser drawer. She fell into bed, completely exhausted, while her daughter literally bounced off of the walls and ran around the room shrieking.
Many years – a decade! – later we would refer to “the [insert hefty curse word] ice storm of 2002” and shudder with the memory of those inconvenient days. She would recall that night in the hotel room where, achingly tired, she tried desperately to convince her wired kid that it was time to sleep. Finally she decided to pretend she was snoozing to see if her daughter would give up and follow suit.
She thought she’d been successful as quiet fell across the room. But then she realized that her daughter’s nose was touching hers, and felt her little girl breath as she pressed her face to her mom’s. Suddenly the sweet sound of silence was disrupted by a little voice that chanted, “One . . . two . . . three . . . OPEN THE EYES!!”
So there was no sleep to be had that night. Ice storms are no joke, and shouldering the responsibility for little ones in any dangerous situation is legitimately stressful and hard.
But maybe there is something profound in that little girl’s game. One, two, three . . . open the eyes and see: family, resources, food, clothing, transportation, community, friendship, shelter from the storm.
The demanding whirlwind of parenthood can be blinding sometimes, but the truth is, if we look beyond our biggest challenges we may very well see our greatest blessings.
Want to get a better handle on relieving temporary blindness? Check out this HuffPo essay on what you may be missing, laugh at these funky fourteen things you never knew were right in front of your face, and see all the signs with this anthem by Ace of Base.