There are about 15 different directions I could take a post with this title. It could be about doing my best to never blink because if my eyes are closed for millionth of a second, Matthew seems to be getting into trouble these days (he's one of the most skilled pick-pocketers you will ever meet, can snatch a phone from a magician, and runs fast enough now to require me to actually exert substantial effort to catch him). But it isn't about that, though it would be an entertaining post. Instead, I want to focus on two very different ways in which I feel keeping our eyes wide open helps bless our lives and the lives of others.
Soooo, Sunday was rough. Todd had been out of town since the previous Monday, arriving home late Saturday night completely thrashed from a grueling hike with the scouts. I was impressed--a group of 14-16 year old boys climbed St. Helens, walked 30+ miles along the Pacific Crest trail to Mt. Adams, and then summited that challenging beast. When Todd got home, I expected thrashed, but the worst part was his nasty feet--he could hardly walk. I put him to bed and, determined to be a good wife, bandaged his bloody, blistery stumps while he snoozed as exhaustion had completely overcome him. Yes, you should be impressed I did that. True love. The next morning, he slept in a little and, because of the pain in said "stumps," he had a hard time walking and didn't make it to the first part of church. As many a mother can attest, when you've been bearing the full load for an extended period of time (and yes, don't mock, but a week feels extended to me), you can only keep it together for so long. And I had done an awesome job of keeping it together (patting myself on the back right now). BUT, come Sunday, I was pretty tired and ready for the hubs to pick up some of the emotional slack, if nothing else. He couldn't. I completely understood and did my best to rise to the occasion--got kids all ready for church and fed before 8:30 because I had to be there early for choir practice (I'm the choir pianist). We made it....late.
So church starts and I'm single-Mom-in' it towards the back of the chapel. There are lots of visitors and Matthew immediately starts to try to chat it up with those in front of us (visitors). They were sweet about it at first, but it became increasingly clear that the Dad was not so entertained by his incessant "hi! hi! Hi!" especially during the sacrament. Matthew pulled on his suit, yelled greetings, hit him and his wife with a book a few times. You know...the usual. Admittedly, I was pretty thrilled he was trying to look at them, engage them, and saying hi so many times, but I did intervene when they attempted to ignore his persistent and somewhat physical attempts. Well, a few minutes into the most sacred part of our meeting and during at time of total silence, Matthew spots someone on their phone....and flips out. He tries to climb his way over myself, Adi and Liam to get to this person and is yelling "PHONE! PHONE! My turn! I call!" and other such related phrases (again, note that I am thrilled with the language...just not with the timing or volume). When I attempt to deter him, it turns to screams and Adi starts to take a bit of a beating during the wrestle to contain him, so I quickly scoop her up in my armpit and start climbing over Liam, dragging a screaming Matthew who is reaching desperately for this person. Not a subtle exit.
Here's where it gets good. I walked out the door of the chapel and, literally, three sets of mother-arms start reaching for my children. Granted, I am almost dropping the armpitted child (Adi), but they instantly just started reaching out. Adi was swept away by one Mom--she got to me first. I guess I wasn't totally shocked because we Mom's just know. If our eyes are open even a crack, we can see desperation. But what surprised me was that a Dad snagged Matthew from me and started walking down the hall with him, tossing him around, wrestling him, and giving him the type of input he needed at that moment to quit perseverating on the phone. I was so grateful...and so touched. After that, three other people, one Mom and two young women, came out of the chapel to help me. They had seen/heard and, rather than sitting there, made their exit so they could offer their help as well. It brought tears to my eyes and I felt so loved by the "village" that was sweeping in to rescue.
One of the young women took Adi completely off my hands for the rest of the meeting, taking her to sit with her and her family. I took Matthew back in and attempted to sit down with a lonely Liam, but Matthew, within two seconds, spotted more phones and was at it again. Another exit was made and Liam was again left alone in the chapel. A sweet family came in and sat with Liam....and it was the Dad that offered! So Liam was now completely taken care of. After a few more minutes and a much-calmer Matthew, he and I went into the very back of the chapel and sat down again. You might be asking why in the world I wouldn't stay out in the hall....well, I had to play the piano for the choir in the middle of the meeting and had no idea when that was to take place. After a few minutes, Matthew spots something that entertains him, so I ask another Dad sitting in front of me to come and sit with Matthew while I play the piano. Didn't last too long and this Dad ended up in the hallway where I came and found them when the piece concluded. Perhaps not wanting to admit defeat, I did attempt to take Matthew in again towards the end (I wanted to listen!) and, within minutes, he was screaming and freaking out, so I dragged him out once more...and TWO Dad's followed me out, offering to take my son. I handed him over, he walked him outside, and I burst into tears. I was totally out of gas and out of emotional strength to deal with him. And, just when needed, I was rescued by someone who had their eyes wide open. I attempted to clean myself up so that it wasn't obvious I'd been sup-supping in the bathroom and the dude didn't know how desperate I had been, but some of my emotion, I realized, stemmed from the fact that I was just so touched.
As I've thought about that experience, not only have I been grateful to be surrounded by people who keep their eyes open--who are watching me in a good way, looking for ways they can ease my burden and helping me with some of the things that others might not even notice. It is because they are LOOKING. I feel like I sometimes get so caught up in my own "plight" that I forget to look. The people who intervened when I needed it so much on Sunday are a great example to me and inspire me to do a better job of keeping my eyes open to the needs of those around me. It has actually changed my week a little bit and some of the things I have done this week to help others have been because of the examples of my Sunday saints.
The next interpretation of the title....if you would have asked me two weeks ago how things were going, I would have said we are in a rut, a funk, a plateau, and things are really hard. And they were. BUT, I realized that I wasn't looking very hard for the good stuff in those weeks where my vision was clouded by the accidental head-butts from a thrashing and uncooperative body, the scratching, the screaming, the phone obsession, the potty accidents, the inability to cooperate, the interrupted sleep, the public displays, etc. Not that I fault myself for being frustrated--I think that is part of the journey and I wouldn't be normal if I didn't feel that way. But I knew, because we've been here before, that the experiences we were having with behaviors and lack of progress would be followed by another burst of progress. So I realized I needed to open my eyes a little wider to look for the good stuff. And the minute I did, I found it.
Matthew is starting to fill in counting numbers up to about four, label letters (x, y, g, h), put two words together (please read, watch movie, I call, want phone), and his eye contact has been beautiful lately. I had a rich reward this week when he walked up to me in the kitchen and, while I was fully expecting some request for my phone or food, looked me deep in the eye and said, "HUG!" I squatted down and he threw his arms around me (and legs...we're talking full hug here) and just gave me the biggest, best squeeze during which I felt my boy saying he loved me. Verbally that has yet to come, but I'll take non-verbal body language like that any day and feel it just as deeply. I'm so glad that my eyes were open enough that day to not brush him off, but to pause and look in his eyes so I could connect with my little guy.
I guess what I'm saying in a very long-winded way is that I feel grateful for people around me who have their eyes wide open and for the perspective that comes when I open mine. Life is good people. It's hard...and sometimes super trying....but it is good.