The kids and I just returned from our yearly visit to Hilton Head Island.
We love it there so much. And it’s made even better by the presence of family.
For a week or so, my troubles go from scurrying and worrying about autism and ABA therapy and that last minute report at the office, to making sure my kids are hosed down in 50 SPF every hour on the hour.
From deadlines to tan lines. (Such a nice problem to have.)
But regardless of what I’m able to leave at home, the one thing I always seem to carry with me is body shame.
Confession time. I have this propensity to take my kids to the beach, set up my camp consisting of my comfy Ostrich chair, enormous umbrella, and fruity drink and just sit. For hours. Without getting in the water. Or playing frisbee. Or Boche Ball. Or whatever.
Because God forbid I jiggle in public.
But this year I had my best lesson in self-awareness from my best teacher.
The evening we arrived at our rental home, my kids put on their swimsuits and dragged me out the door to the beach. As we walked down that palm-tree lined path we’ve walked so many times, I could hear my inner monologue already starting in on me.
I hope this swimsuit doesn’t make me look too fat.
Man, I hope there aren’t a zillion people at the beach right now.
Ugh, I can actually hear my thighs chafing already.
Now, one would think after 42 freaking years of life, that I would be past this incessant and vile self-loathing. But alas. It remains.
As we walked into the clearing, time stood still for a moment. You know that moment? The one where you walk out of the trees and onto the beach and the whole world disappears.
Yes. That moment. Ahhhhhhhhh.
As I looked around, the beach was practically empty. My kids threw their sandals and towels at me and took off running toward the ocean.
I smiled as I walked toward them.
They were so blissfully happy.
Then they stopped right before they reached the water. They both turned and looked at me at the same time.
Zion said “Mama, come on!”
I called out to him to take his t-shirt off. But instead he took off everything, including his trunks.
He was standing on the beach, bare-pickle.
Zoë and I roared with laughter, as I scrambled to get his shorts back on him and cover him up. He giggled hysterically, as I started to look around to see who was watching. There were maybe 20 people on the beach at the time, and guess what?
No one was watching. Not one person had even looked in our general direction, even with the giggling and the Free Willy.
And in that moment I had a revelation.
The only person who cares what I look like at the beach is me.
That is very important, so I am going to say it again.
THE ONLY PERSON WHO CARES WHAT I LOOK LIKE AT THE BEACH IS ME!
The cellulite. The rogue hairs. The flouncy tummy. The upper arms that wave goodbye long after I have stopped waving goodbye…
No one gives a rip.
So I threw my shirt in the sand, and ran into the water with my kids.
Almost immediately after I sat down in the ocean, a huge salty wave crashed over my head. And my kids squealed with glee.
Kids remember presence. And feeling happy and loved.
They don’t care what I look like in a swimsuit. (And by the way, neither did those strangers on the beach chairs 20 steps to the left.)
I did my best to remember that throughout the rest of vacation. When we were at the beach, I got into the water. When we were in the pool, I played with Zion as much as he would let me. He likes when I put him on my back, and do laps around the pool while singing the theme from Jaws. I am just so thankful to have a son who is finally engaging and being more social. Sure, Zion still likes to sit in the house and watch Disney movies over and over again on the iPad. But he enjoys himself…at his own pace.
And I let him.
At the end of the week, my dad took us to the Hilton Head Diner for breakfast. As we talked and laughed over eggs and pancakes, dad asked everyone their favorite moment of vacation.
For Zoë it was zip lining. For my dad, it was playing a full round of golf for the first time since his heart attack last summer. For my mom, it was having her very own gravity chair at the beach to watch her grandchildren build sandcastles. For me, it was the bare-pickle lesson…though I didn’t say that. I just giggled and said something like “seafood,” because hey… who doesn’t love crab legs and shrimp?
But when my dad asked Zion about his favorite moment of vacation, Zion said only one word.
Imagine the memories that would have been lost if I had allowed my jiggle to prevent me from fully living on our vacation.
Thankfully, I let the size of my heart outweigh the size of my thighs.