I am a giver of advice, always making pragmatic and brave suggestions and encouraging my friends to blast through their lives fearlessly.
“YES, you should see a therapist!”
“YES, you should wear the hell out of that bathing suit!”
“YES, you should tell him how you feel!”
Have that baby. Make that phone call. Apologize. Whatever that hard thing is, I always say YES. DO IT. And then I like to tack on, “What’s the worst that could happen?!” Because really, how bad could it be?
It’s funny how easy it is to kick back and spout advice when you aren’t facing that particular hard thing. Today, my hard thing is to admit that my following my own advice often brings me embarrassment.
Recently I found myself at a beautiful wedding reception, where no alcohol was present, and no one was dancing to Brown-Eyed Girl as it played over the speakers. My 5-year-old, Maverick, looked around and said “Why isn’t anyone dancing? Oh wait! I know why. Because this isn’t a DANCING song.” I looked at him and thought, nope. It’s because we are all self-conscious and sober.
Then he asked me to walk with him to speak to the DJ because he wanted to hear Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks. “Now THAT,” he said emphatically, “is a DANCING SONG.”
As he waited for my reply, I looked at the room full of well-dressed White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, none of whom I knew well enough to feel comfortable cavorting in front of, and wished I’d brought my flask. Could I really break it down sober, in these heels, in this South Louisiana heat? Absolutely not. Yet I knew what I would tell one of my girlfriends to do in my situation – to go with her little boy and get that song played, because children are amazing and that is a damn good song. Kids don’t know what WASPS are, and even if they did, they wouldn’t care. Dancing is fun.
“You only live once,” I’d tell my girlfriend. “Show up for your kid. Let him remember you as the kind of mom who threw off her shoes and DANCED!”
And now here I was, having to take my own advice and tap into the part of myself that didn’t care what people thought. I’m not going to lie, it was hard. And the whole time I was mad at my husband, for not being there to do this hard thing, so I wouldn’t have to. He’s a much better dancer than I am, but I have a much nicer rack, so I’m not sure which of us the WASPS would have preferred.
A few weeks later, a group of my girlfriends were freaking out over what they are planning to wear to the pool, or the beach, this season to camouflage their mom bodies. I think most of us can agree that things just aren’t what they used to be. If one of my children points to the big patch of spider veins on my left thigh and ask me for the umpteenth time, “How did you get that big bruise, Mommy?” I’m going to LOSE it. I GOT IT FROM YOU OR ONE OF YOUR SIBLINGS, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER WEIRD THING ON MY BODY. STOP ASKING ME ABOUT IT.
So, while I am well-acquainted with the stress of swimsuit season, it drives me crazy to think of my beautiful friends missing out on fun with their children because they are worried about their cellulite. “What’s important is that you are there, in the water, with your kids!” I said. Because, of course I did. “They should remember us as being vivacious and fun!”
Except that the pools are now open where I live … and for the first time in six – yes, SIX – Summers, I am not pregnant, recovering from a miscarriage, or shielding a very new baby from the sun. I have no excuse this year, and I found myself dragging out my one-piece the very day after I spouted that bullshit about “what’s important is that you are there in the water with your kids.”
As I stood next to our overflowing tote with my ass hanging out, I wanted to sink into the concrete or fade away like a ghost or SOMETHING, anything, to escape from the reality of wearing swimwear in public. I was at a pool full of hot co-eds who were staring at us: the dumpy mom in the ill-fitting swimsuit and the loud boy who cannot swim.
It took every ounce of my being to remain present as he shrieked “I’M DROWNING!! SAVE ME, MOMMY! Ha ha, just kidding, see, I can totally touch the bottom.” I made some sort of mommish remark like, “drowning is nothing to joke about.” My ass is nothing to joke about either, but I was pretty sure someone was going to be joking about it later. Probably that guy right over there, pretending not to listen as he sipped the beer that I wanted so badly to yank from his hands.
I sat glued the edge of the pool and repeated to myself that I was a good mom, that this was the right thing to do, because I was showing up and I was present and what was important was that I was there. I was following my own advice, and it sucked. Maybe it’s time I stop encouraging other people to do scary things.
But later, after the embarrassment wore off, I regained my clarity. What’s the worst that could happen? The worst that could happen is that nothing could happen. I have the choice to be the mom who does scary things or the mom who always covers up and ducks her head, afraid to draw attention or be an inconvenience or EVEN WORSE, CAUSE A STIR.
I can be the mom who is proud of who she is, flaws included, or the mom who is ashamed. I can be the mom who sits in a chair, or the mom who participates.
My kids are well worth a little embarrassment on my behalf and yours are too. They don’t notice or care that you have fat legs or shitty dance moves. Little kids are innocent. Free. Simple.
All mine know is that I am Mommy. Sometimes we dance, and sometimes we swim.
And sometimes, Mommy drinks from a tiny metal can that she keeps in her purse.
Related post: Getting In