Finding Home in Your Mother’s Eyes

Imagine, that your child will be met by the world with the same attitude and attention that you deliver to him or her through your eyes! What is there in your eyes?

Once my client, let’s call her Nancy, told me a story. She participated in a training. Four of them were supposed to do an activity together and as Nancy’s turn came she had to choose a partner. She first looked at the young, beautiful woman that was part of their team, but something pushed her away from that woman.

Nancy quickly turned to an older guy, it felt much easier for her to do an exercise with him. She noticed that the woman looked very disappointed. When they finished the exploration, the woman revealed to Nancy that she felt sad and made a story that “something was wrong with her” because Nancy hadn’t chosen her. She was wondering what pushed Nancy away?

Nancy didn’t know. What occurred to her though that the woman’s eyes looked very similar to her mother’s eyes – almost the same color and shape. As Nancy grew up she was often afraid of her mother. Her mother’s reactions were unpredictable and when they talked and their eyes met her mother would often say to Nancy, “Why are you staring at me like this with your shameless eyes!” So Nancy learned to avoid looking straight into her mother’s eyes.

When her mother looked at Nancy her attitude was often judgmental or checking for “what’s wrong” – a wrong t-shirt, dirty ears, hunched back… So Nancy learned to keep her distance from her mother and certainly not “to stare” at her. She also without being aware stayed away from women whose eyes reminded her of her mother’s.

This story was a revelation to me! I started noticing the lens through which I look at my children. I asked myself: Does my gaze meet them with a loving greeting every morning when they come down for breakfast? Or when they come back from school? Or when they are back from a birthday party? What do my eyes express? Excitement? Admiration? An open heart? Or there’s nothing besides business – scanning, evaluating, grading, glazing over? I felt sad about all the missed opportunities to deliver the message to them, “Come, dive into the safety of my gaze! I see you and love you with all your joys and your sorrows. I see the best in you!”

I also started consciously relaxing my forehead and softening my eyebrows and the area around my eyes when I look at my kids. I began to scan more for what is there to appreciate rather than what is there to fix. 

And as it often happens I discovered that other people asked the same questions. For example, I came across the Mark Matousek’s webinar under the title The Mother's Gaze: How We Learn to Trust and Love and that led me to his blog The Meeting Eyes of Love: How Empathy Is Born In Us.

Mark says, “You learn the world from your mother's face. The mother's eyes, especially, are a child's refuge, the mirror where children confirm their existence. From the doting reflection of its mother's eyes, a baby draws its earliest, wordless lessons about connection, care, and love…”

And then, “In the complex relationship between parents and children, our earliest bonding patterns are formed. Our first glimmers of being loved by our mother, thereby feeling ourselves to be lovable, are indissolubly linked to our ability to care for others in our maturity. As anyone who's been a parent can attest, this love requires levels of patience, stamina, and selflessness beyond anything demanded by any other relationship. Luckily, the rewards can be equally epic. Through the mirrored love in our parents' eyes, we learn surrender, devotion, and trust.”

So here is my question to you.
How would you like the world to look at your child?
Write down five words that reflect your wish.
How can you start expressing these qualities through your eyes already now?
Remember to relax the muscles around your eyes and let the corners of your eyes smile when you look at your child. It's good against wrinkles too!

Hopefully, our children will know that they can find true home in our eyes - the place where they feel at ease, accepted and loved.