Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Just Jump

Remember when you were a kid and you didn't care whether or not the pool was cold? And you just saw that sparkling water, revved up and jumped in without a second thought?

Yeah. Neither do I.

What I do remember is my mom, grandmother, aunt, dad...anyone, really, over the age of 20, telling me it was cold and not to rush them getting in the pool. Not to get them wet before they were ready. And I get it. Because cold water feels like Satan now that I am an adult.

There have been some videos and articles circulating lately, encouraging women to just stop caring and put on their bathing suits and have fun, for goodness sake. To stop worrying about what they look like and just BE.

And I think those are great. I have friends who struggle deeply with body image. Who hate bathing suit season. Who would threaten your life if you aimed a camera in their direction at the pool. (I am not naming names NOR am I saying this did or did not happen to me just yesterday.)

But I don't really know what that feels like during this phase of life, to be honest. I don't mind putting on a suit if it's high cut enough at the top. My main worry is a wardrobe malfunction that would leave people emotionally scarred. Not all bathing suits were created to parent spirited toddlers, for the love.

What I do struggle with is this: old lady grumpiness.

You know what I want? To sit on the side of the pool, dry, rather than freezing my patootie off in a frigid pool. To read a book for a whole hour straight with the sun beating down while I sip an iced coffee or chat with my friends. I want to RELAX.

I also want to be a good mom.

And it's clear that relaxation and toddlers are not possible at the same time, particularly around water hazards. Or, really, when they are awake.

So.

I woke up Monday morning and I knew we were heading back to the pool in a few hours. I knew my boys were going to want to spend 2 hours straight jumping in, climbing out and doing it all over again because it is exactly what they had done the two days before. I knew it was possible they would ask me to get in that water and not just be content with my pseudo-exercise role of bicep-curling them in a squat position out of the pool so they could jump back in to dad. They had asked me before and I had said no. I wasn't ready for that cold pool.

This time, though, I decided that, if asked, I would just jump.

I wouldn't stick my toe in first. I wouldn't creep, in infinitesimally painful increments, with a look of horror on my face, down the stairs.

I would just say yes. Just jump.

So, after about 20 minutes of bicep curling my two year old, my three year old looked me dead in the eye.

Jumping with Nate
"Mama, will you jump in with me?"
"Yes, bug, I will."
"Really??!!!! Let's do it together, Mama!"

Friends. I wish I could have captured that grin on film.  That toothy, thrilled, exhilarated, water-already-dripping-from-his-face grin. (My neighbor stealthily did manage to capture us jumping together without me knowing it, how cool is that?!)

Was that water cold? YEP.

Was it worth it? YEP.

That grin is going to carry me through every cloudy day when I want to stay on the side. Through every moment when I am carrying a grudge for how he has acted and don't WANT to go in the pool with him in retribution. That grin was pure magic.

I know I will fail to always follow through on this, but my summer goal is to "just jump". Just say yes when my boys ask me to do something that I might not WANT to do but that I know will be good for US.

To not, this summer, be a grumpy old lady.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Village

Today was opening day for our neighborhood pool.

I watched as my oldest laughed and jumped and swam and raced with all these amazing young people that he didn't know a year ago.

I chatted and laughed with kind and funny people, women and men I know call neighbors and friends. I walked around the outside of the pool with a friend so she could get her "steps" in and, at the same time, spy on her teenage kids. (Shh.)

They helped me laugh off the fact that earlier in the day, within just one short hour of the summer officially starting, I had to wrestle a screaming, kicking toddler and three bags on the long walk of shame from the kiddie pool to the parking lot. One hour was all it took for us to bless the neighborhood with our very special (and ear-splitting) brand of chaos.

Last year I would have left the pool, lonely and dejected and embarrassed, vowing never to come back again. (And then my husband would have eventually talked me into trying again.)

But here's the difference this summer.

This summer I know we are surrounded by people who have been there. Who know us. Who aren't secretly judging us in their heads and saying things behind their hands like "that kid just needs a good spanking, look how he acts in public!" Who remember (and share about) their own times racing from the pool to the car with their own unhinged toddlers in their arms.

Friends.

This time last year I was struggling hard with the reality of moving back to Richmond.  Fearful, really, that we would make the same poor choices we made last time around. That we would overschedule our lives. Hide the true realities of our days. That the painful way we left it last time around would follow us right back and set up shop shop in our home as an unescapable anxiety.

But it hasn't. God is so good.

Yes, we had a slow start last summer.  A lonely first two months here. Tears before bed. Isolation in our chaos. There are few things harder than watching your normally joyful child struggle deeply with sadness and know that you have been the cause.

But then school happened. Neighbors came outside. We took a risk and skipped right past the painful small talk and just got to know each other. No hiding. Our kids became friends. My oldest found some besties. My younger ones found some teenagers to hero worship, boys who actually knock on the door and ask to play with our toddlers. Friends who drop everything when you call and say "we need you to come grab the boys" as your younger one is having  a seizure. Who clean your house and watch your kids and fill your fridge so you can keep going when you come home from the hospital.

I found friends to pray with, who see our boys as beautiful and precious and children created in the image of God who I know will fight with every ounce of their being alongside of us to make our schools and neighborhoods and churches better and safer places in which to raise our black sons.

We have found something so, so precious here.

This time last year I wrote this:

"Most of all, I hope as I continue to untangle and forgive myself and move forward, that we can start
fresh as a family. 10 years later. 2 more pets. 2 more children. 2 more sets of goodbyes under our belts. We have changed and so has RVA.

Ready or not, here we come."

I can honestly say that one year later, I feel like we've been able to do this. To start fresh. To be who we are in this place, in all our chaotic, loud glory. There ain't no hiding it, anyway. We've found that most amazing of things: a real community of friends who treats us like family even when our kids are losing it, when we haven't showered, when the stress is too much. Who helps us get back up after a tough day. Who lets us love on their kids like our own.

Who helps us to laugh at what life throws at us and keep going.

So today, as I watched my son with eyes glowing and smile so wide, and as I sat next to these amazing new friends, I felt overwhelmed. With gratefulness, with hope and with joy.

And with the knowledge that this village has been a part of my healing in ways I never could have expected.