I’ve admitted it before: my face ruins things. Wedding photos, rando photos, live television appearances, feelings that I’d rather keep to myself…
Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves? Well, mine’s all up on my grill.
There’s no mistaking how I’m feeling; one look at my mug and it’s pretty apparent I’m ecstatic/frustrated/weepy/ready to cut a B. My eyes get squinty or huge–there is no in between. My lips snarl, part Elvis, part pit-bull. My brow seems permanently furled, as that’s its reaction to my fleeting deep thoughts, anger, pensiveness, concentration, attempts at keeping the sun from scorching my retinas when I yet again forget sunglasses. The point is this: I’m an open book. Or, face as it were. I just didn’t realize how quickly my children would pick up on it.
Last week, I had asked my first-grader if she wanted to buy or pack her lunch. It was early evening, when I prefer to pack lunches, as to avoid adding to our morning chaos. After perusing the school menu options, she decided to buy.
But maybe buy.
Could she just decide in the morning because she wants to wake up and ask herself, “Self, what do you feel like eating for lunch today?”
My daughter is, without a doubt, my most incorrigible child. One may go as far to say she’s downright frustrating on a daily basis. But she’s also hilarious, and her big brown eyes and affinity for sweet displays of affection make up for it.
So on that evening, as the kids were settling into their wind-down routine, and I was desperately trying to regain some semblance of organization in my life, our worlds collided. Her world, NBD, smacked into mine, OCD. And while I didn’t speak a word in response to her indecision, apparently I didn’t have to. My face did the talking for me.
“Are you mad at me, Mommy?!”
“No! Why would you say that?”
“Because that’s your disappointed face.”
I took a quick mental inventory of my face:
- Brow furled? CHECK.
- Lips pursed? CHECK.
- Eyes about to roll? CHECK.
You know, I always thought the lines on my forehead and around my eyes would result from too much laughter. They call them laugh lines for a reason, right? That’s what was supposed to happen to me. And it’s not that I’m not a happy person; I throw my head back in a good guffaw often enough to make the average bear think I’m slightly unstable.
It’s just that I didn’t realize, or maybe I ignored, the direct correlation between doing this adulting thing with a smile on my face and the ability to let shit roll off my shoulders. I’m not so good at that last part, and guess who’s noticing…
“My disappointed face?!”
“Yeah, I see it when you’re mad.”
“Baby, I am not disappointed that you want me to pack a lunch. OR NOT PACK A LUNCH! I guess I just like to know what to expect so I can plan accordingly. I’m sorry if you thought I was upset or disappointed.”
All these years, I’ve been trying to suppress words when my panties are in a bunch, following the timeless wisdom to not say anything if I don’t have anything nice to say. Like a good parent does goddammit. And this whole time, those words were on my face, speaking to my kids without me even realizing it.
I still laugh about ruining friends’ wedding photos with my ridiculous facial expressions. My flared nostrils and crazy eyes are part of the fabric of our friendship, and now framed on their mantels. I will not apologize for any of it.
Never one to be sorry about being honest, I embrace how my face tells the truth.
But now? I am sorry. You know how certain smells or songs bring a person back to her childhood? I don’t want my face to transport my daughter back to the day in our kitchen where she frustrated me over a peanut butter and banana roll-up vs. a school lunch. I’ve got to be more self-aware around those little hearts. I’m grateful my kid called me out, too; I don’t know if I ever would’ve realized how expressions I’ve been wearing for years were affecting her.
Gah, parenting is weird. One day, you’re caught up in your own thoughts and your kid drop-kicks your soul with a simple observation. The next day, you’re consciously trying to be a better person, retraining your eyebrows to meet your hairline instead of your eyelids. Because the kids deserve it. I also deserve a nice nursing home when I’m 80 and I’m counting on my kids to make that happen. So Project Fix Your Face is now underway.