He looks at me, his wide eyes shiny, glistening like tiny puddles in the moonlight. And like tranquil pools of water illuminated by that magic, silvery, transformative glow, they reflect only the brightness. Shadows and darkness are lost on them.
He looks at me with the eyes of a child—with the eyes of my child—and he sees the best of me. He sees me for all the things I pray to be and all the things I want to be.
I sometimes catch it in his gaze when he looks at me—a tiny glimpse of what those beautiful, innocent eyes see, and I cling to it like a life preserver:
He sees me, not my eating disorder.
He sees arms that wrap tightly around him when he’s in pain—arms that hug, heal, and hold. He sees arms that have the strength to swing him around in circles when we dance, dipping him toward the ground and then pulling him close, pressing our hearts together. He sees arms with “itty bitty hay-ers,” and one with a tattoo that bears the names of him and his brother.
He sees arms that encircle him with love.
He doesn’t see arms that push plates of food away when their owner struggles to love herself. He doesn’t see arms that bulge awkwardly in shirts that are a little too fitted. He doesn’t see arms that wrap themselves tightly around an imperfect body in bed at night, hoping to make it disappear.
He sees hips and a waist that prop him up, contouring to his own tiny curves like a corresponding puzzle piece on treks through store parking lots. He sees curves that support him and curves that cuddle him. He sees a shape that forms the perfect niche for his perfect, delicate self.
He sees a body that handles him with love.
He doesn’t see love handles. He doesn’t see layers of fat and skin that beg to be pinched, analyzed, and detested. He doesn’t see imperfection.
He sees legs that run and jump, legs that chase him at the playground and teach him how to do “froggy hops.” He sees legs that bounce him up and down during bedtime stories, legs that support the weight of him. He sees legs that are just the right size for his tiny toddler arms to wrap around every single day by way of a morning greeting.
He sees legs that carry his Mama to him when he’s hurt, sad, or scared.
He doesn’t see legs that carry the burden of silent self-loathing. He doesn’t see legs that touch in all the wrong places. He doesn’t see legs that bear the weight of so much irrational, senseless suffering.
He sees eyes that beam with pride when he recites his ABCs, eyes that brighten at the undeniable way he lights up a room. He sees eyes that crease in the corners and brim with tears of gratitude whenever he says “I love you, Mama.”
He sees eyes that mirror all his love right back at him.
He doesn’t see eyes that avert themselves in the presence of an actual mirror. He doesn’t see eyes that can’t look upon their owner with the same love they hold for him. He doesn’t see eyes that are too scared to gaze inward and face the demons they might find there.
He doesn’t see eyes that cry until they close for the night, unable to see the things he sees.
He sees me through a lens colored with love, not one darkened by the shadow of this toxic, suffocating disease.
He sees all the things worth living for and none of the things that aren’t.
He sees the pieces of me I am fighting to hold on to.
And even when I feel like disappearing—even when I feel like I am disappearing—he sees ME. And it his perfect, unadulterated vision that gives me hope.
Because the person he sees is the person I know I can be.
And I hope that one day—one day—I’ll be able to see the things he sees, and close my eyes to the ones he doesn’t.