“Oh wow! Looking at her must be just like looking in the mirror!”
My friend beamed at me as she smiled down at baby bean, who was peacefully sleeping against my chest.
Maybe it was the state of shock that I was in after my near-death-birth-experience, or perhaps the fact that my depleted blood volume had left me looking green against the warm pink tones of baby bean, but until this point, I hadn’t even considered that my daughter and I looked anything alike. I sat dumbstruck while my friend compared our squishy noses, our almond eyes, our heart-shaped faces and red-toned hair.
Later that night, while the rest of the world slept and my baby nursed, I looked down at her with fresh eyes. I made myself loose my own insecurities and blinkers, and I looked at my little girl afresh. My friend was right. I saw a version of myself looking back at me; a more beautiful, perfected version, with subtle differences of course, but the similarities were unmistakeable.
In the years that have followed, it has become ever more apparent that little bean is my mirror, and I’m not just talking about how we look. As all children do, my daughter has picked up my phrases, my intonation and story-telling style. We have the same smile, the same cackle-like laugh and sense of humour. She is the one person in the world who I understand in completeness and I have absolutely no doubt that she knows me better than I know myself.
I fully expected this unison, this synchronised relationship. Yet I seem to have overlooked something quite major; I assumed that my daughter's mirroring of my behaviour would occur only when the sun was shining and the butterflies were fluttering. I didn't consider that she might just pick up the parts of me that I once hid away from the world; my moments of sadness.
I didn't know that I handled distress badly, until I saw my daughter do exactly what I do when upset...mirror-like….move for move...as if perfectly choreographed and painstakingly learnt. My dance of distress...
The first move is simple, it’s just standing up...The second is walking; making sure to walk away from all company and offerings of support...The third step is sitting again, preferably in a corner and out of the way...Lastly, and this is the move I’ve truly mastered, I put my head in my hands.
My dance of distress is a quiet one; there is no shouting or stamping. It is isolated and alone. I once thought that my reaction to stress was self-protective. I saw my self-contained actions as something others wouldn’t and couldn’t judge or berate. I created for myself what I assumed to be a safe place away from the world, where nothing else could hurt me. Or help me, it seems.
Because my, oh my, when I see my distress dance played back to me through the emotional mirror that is my daughter, I see and feel nothing but pain. From outside the bubble, it doesn’t look like a safe space to be in. It looks like nothing other than a cry for help. And in truth, inside the bubble feels only like loss; like unimportance and disaster. I know this because I choreographed the moves; I have been performing the sequence for as long as I can remember.
You see, this dance is my dance, not ours. My daughter has shown me the truth behind it; she has shown me my cry for help. Because when I sit beside her and whisper softly that I am here and that I understand, her little face changes. Her little face, which is so similar to my own, looks at me with something that I could never manage to muster in the same situation; she looks at me with hope. And as quick as it began, little bean’s distress dance is complete. Because even in our most isolated moments, it is connection and understanding that will bring us back to the light and warmth of hope.
In times of distress, just as we are about to embark on the same old dance, what would happen if we took a moment to breath...What if we were to hang up our dancing shoes, or at least to work on a new routine for our little beans to mirror...one with different steps...
It could start with recognising the sadness that we are feeling in the moment...It might move to acceptance; accepting and forgiving ourselves for our difficult feelings...The next step would be connection; seeking out the support that we need...And it would close with communication, since resolution can so often be found when we dare to share how we are feeling.
Because my daughter is my mirror; she has my squishy nose, my almond eyes, my heart-shaped face and red-toned hair. And as our Love Story continues, I hope that I can remember how important it is for me to face my own demons, so that I can mirror back to little bean a healthier way of coping with hers.
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