I’m sitting on a snow-covered bench with my daughter, our sledding adventure complete for the moment, now awaiting our pink-cheeked boys so we can head home to hot chocolate. As we wait, my daughter crouches down to make a tiny snowman and I am left to my thoughts. I watch the families heading to their cars, the children with eyes alight with that special joy that comes from flying down a snowy hill. The dads are still in play mode--throwing one last snow ball, responding when their kids call out, “Dad! Try and get me!”
And the moms? Here they come, trudging behind, heads down, looking weary. Calling, “Watch out!” as their children and husbands play and squeal and chase. Watch out, there’s a curb there! Watch out, we’re near a parking lot! Watch out, don’t slip, don’t fall down, don’t get hurt…
If these women had fun here today, it is hidden away, tucked from view by their duty to keep everyone safe, warm, fed, and any of a million other tasks.
I’ve seen these women everywhere, haven’t you? At the beach, the park, the swimming pool, the grocery store, birthday parties...mothers who look worn and exhausted, going about the motions, spreading sunscreen, doling out granola bars, easing sibling squabbles. They are there, but it’s like their light has dimmed. I like to imagine these women in elementary school or college, before. I like to imagine they are still in there, like a flower bud patiently waiting its turn.
Oh, Mamas. I can so relate. As I watched each of you continue your wearisome journey through that parking lot, I thought of the work involved with getting you there at all. As parents, the tasks necessary to get our children and ourselves out the door for a snowy adventure carry the number and urgency of fleeing a zombie apocalypse. In fact, years ago, my husband and I looked at each other in the throes of one of these boot-tugging/ glove-finding debacles and said, “Well, if the zombies ever attack, it’s been nice knowing you.” There is often crying and sweating involved...and the kids aren’t in great shape, either!
In my case, that morning being our first sled-able snow storm, we managed to dig out 5 pairs of snow pants (only one had holes in the lining—success!), 4 pairs of snow gloves in varying sizes, one pair of snow mittens (WHY won’t his tiny thumb go in that enormous thumb hole?!?), 5 pairs of boots, 5 hats, 5 winter coats, 2 sleds, and one polar bear snow tube named Michael Bolton (yep). We drove 20 minutes to a park that promised the best sledding in town, pulled into the parking lot, and two-thirds of our children immediately declared they didn’t “like this hill.” Then we struggled through 20 minutes of re-dressing the kids who got too hot in the car and took everything off. Finally (finally!), The Bensis had arrived. It took approximately three (3!) hours from idea to fruition.
So, dear Mamas, the fact that you woke up to a beautiful, snow-covered, peaceful morning and decided it would be fun to do everything I just described instead of sending your husband and kids out the door means that somewhere deep within, you want to play. You don’t go through all of that unless there’s something inside you that feels there is more to being a mom than work and caution. You remember the you before. Before it was your duty to yell, “Watch out!” instead of “Go for it!” But I didn’t see moms in the thick of it that day--they stood back, huddled against the cold, reminding their kids to be careful.
Remember how much fun it was to fly down a snow-covered hill? Your hair whipping around your face and your teeth aching from laughing in the cold air? I do--because I went sledding that day. Despite the warning bells in my head telling me of every hidden danger involved with sledding, many of which I have seen in my own pediatric practice. Despite my freezing feet. Despite my 39-year-old body. You see, I want my daughter to see her mom having fun, being silly, hair a mess, smile lines for days. Do I still find myself calling out cautionary reminders? Sure. I can’t help it sometimes. As a mom of three and a pediatrician (who has seen it all), I can spot a hazard a mile away. But I’ve (mostly) learned to whisper it to my husband as a check-in--if he smiles and squeezes my arm, I know I’m being paranoid and I allow myself to relax.
Let’s be fun again, Mamas. Let’s be the playful ones in the family, spontaneous and goofy. Let’s show our kids that growing up does not mean the end of joyful abandon. Let’s smile big and laugh loudly so we can feel big feelings and make loud memories. Let’s yell, “Watch me!” instead of “Watch out!”