A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take my kids down to the beach for a little sunset playtime. This is a pretty regular occurrence for us, but as I was reminded that afternoon, it wasn't always so second nature. As I trekked across the sand with my double jogger stroller overflowing with two kids, sand toys, towels, extra clothes, snacks, etc., I saw another nice looking family and decided to park it next to them. I saw the mom next to me kind of give me a crooked smile as she watched my kids immediately run in separate directions and I unloaded our stuff into the sand. It wasn't a judgmental crooked smile; it was a smile of recognition and understanding that us moms should all give each other more often. I smiled back.
It wasn't long before our beach neighbors were being yanked over to our little sand toy lot by their 18-month old cutie. As it turned out, they were from out of town, from some place very cold, and they of course were marveling at the fact that we were all at the beach at sunset, in shorts, in the middle of winter. Yes, that is one of the main reasons why we live here!
So we got to chatting about mom stuff, and what she said next really caught me off guard. She said, “I honestly don't know how you are doing this—at the beach with two little kids all by yourself, that is. I saw you coming down the sand, and I thought ‘She must be Super Mom!’”
(Not a bad pic for setting up my iPhone on top of the stroller...when you just need that pic)
My first reaction was to chuckle to myself, and think about how that certainly was not true. But then as I was trying to figure out what to say in return, I thought about the real truth of the matter. I thought about how I came to this level of comfortability and ease, and this is what I told her.
I told her about the first time I took both kids to the beach by myself. My daughter was barely four, and my son was a little over one. I took them for a picnic dinner, thinking it was going to be this totally euphoric event where all three of us sat together and enjoyed the sunset while eating french fries and greasy cheeseburgers. Silly, silly, silly me. Why on Earth I thought this would actually work, I have no idea.
My daughter loves the water, and my son loves the sand; so naturally they both ran in different directions at top speed. I didn't know whether to chase my daughter, who wasn't a fantastic swimmer at the time, or my son who would have chased the seagulls straight into a different county if I’d let him. So I ran in circles yelling at both of them to come back, which of course was totally in vain. Meanwhile, those pesky seagulls that my son was chasing, promptly took off with our entire dinner.
At this point, I was certain that my parenting was being harshly judged by every other person on that beach. I was stubborn though, and didn't want to admit defeat, so I stayed there way too long, chasing my crazies around and around until I was legitimately dizzy. By the time we left, I was incredibly frustrated, on the verge of tears, absolutely starving, and convinced that my beach going days were a thing of the past—at least without my husband or other reliable backup.
At this point, the other mom looked at me and said, “But you are here now, and you look so comfortable, and you said you do this all the time. So what changed?”
Honestly, I don't remember exactly when I decided to try again, and I don't remember what gave me the courage. That’s the funny thing about parenthood. It is hard, and it challenges you every single day. Some days, of course, are easier or harder than others; but you have to move forward, so you do. You learn from your mistakes, and you try again. I would be so sad if I couldn't go to the beach anymore. It is part of my soul, and it is part of what makes me feel like me! My husband has to travel a lot for work, so I have no choice but to buck up and figure things out for myself.
So I don't remember how or when I started to feel more comfortable taking two wild kids to the beach by myself. They both still run in opposite directions. We still pick up food to bring with us, but I don't expect us to sit down and eat it all together. I am much happier to shove it in my face as I play referee, as opposed to watching another pesky seagull carry it away!
I told that mom that she would find that confidence and a new sense of comfort in time, and it will probably just sneak up on her without her even realizing. Life is just funny that way. We are all stronger, more capable, and way more resilient than we think. And as far as being a Super Mom goes, my original thought was wrong. I thought I wasn't a Super Mom. After all, that’s quite the title! However, I have changed my mind. Every mom is a Super Mom in her own way. We all have our own struggles, insecurities, failures, better days, and triumphs alike. We all may have different life goals, different parenting styles, and different lives, but what we have in common makes us all Super Moms—we want the best for our children, and we want to be the best for them. All we can do is try, and never give up on them, or ourselves.
So, I’ll take it. Thank you other beach mom, for the sweet compliment, and for making me take notice of how far I’ve come since that first solo beach date with my two favorite people in the whole world. Thank you!
Until next time...