When I glanced at my reflection tonight, quickly darting over the parts I know too well that I'd rather not focus on, and going to the ones I can usually find something kind to say to myself about, I couldn't help but think "Who the hell is that woman?". The dark circles seem almost physically imprinted under my eyes, like the shadowy hollow that is left after being really ill. The color I might normally have swiped over my cheeks and lips was long gone. The mascara flaking off my tired eyelashes. The "clean" shirt I changed into after work already stretched out, wet from tantrum splashes and a writhing, wet kid at bathtime. And, my first thought was not "man, I need more sleep" but more along the lines of "surely I don't look that bad in real life, right?".
And then, my thoughts were broken up by a still-screaming preschooler who has been having one tantrum or another for nearly the entirety of the 2 waking hours on either side of the work day I've been with her. And, I would say this is just a particularly rough day, everyone surely has these moments...but lately it's been the norm for her to scream/cry/whine/hit/kick/thrash/go limp/go ninja for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-4 hours of the day, as long as she is in my presence.
Instead of meeting her needs with kindness, with strong, welcoming, supportive arms, with all the right words to soothe her tears and build her confidence like the mother I always imagined I would be, I meet her screams with my own. I mirror her tears with the same salty, burning hot ones from my own eyes. I swear. I shout at my spouse. I seethe with red-hot anger at myself for the fact that I have absolutely no idea what the hell to do.
When I screamed at her "YOU ARE MAKING ME SO F*&%ING ANGRY" and her tiny reply through tears was "well you are making ME angry!"... I remembered that we tend to mirror each other, and what we see across from us is probably what the other is looking at, too. We butt heads because we are so alike. We are both seeking acceptance and love from the other. She needs me to keep on being here for her, even when she's terribly hard to be around. I need her to keep on being here for me, and reminding me that she does still need me, and that she keeps asking for my love, even when I'm not so great to be around, either.
So, yeah, next time I glance at my reflection and think "who the hell is that exhausted, burned out, glazed over woman?"...the mirror probably is telling the truth. It's me. I'm just a mama, trying her best, plain and simple.