“Learn to…be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not.” – Henri Frederic Amiel
Every woman needs a friend that is more like family than a friend. This friend knows everything about you, has seen you at your best and your worst, and loves you in spite of, or even because of, some of the cosmic mistakes you have made.
My friend Ashley is the sister I never had.
She recently visited me with her sweet kids and a couple of close family friends, and she promptly wanted to take advantage of the twenty-five-minute drive to the beach.
It might be blasphemous to admit as a native Californian and San Diego resident, but I’m not a beach person. I wish I could solely blame this on my kids, but even before having children I was never a hang-out-all-day-at-the-beach kind of chick.
When my friend suggested a beach day, I immediately flashed back to the last beach excursion I had with the kids.
I already hated life after dealing with finding a parking spot and applying sunscreen to my children aka moving targets. Then there was the walk with two children, a diaper bag, a chair, sand toys, towels, and my water in my recyclable cup with straw. I went to try to scale the cement wall to get to the sand, and my water immediately fell, covered by sand and rendered undrinkable.
I said a few expletives that I shouldn’t have before I looked up and noticed an elderly couple watching me. The woman gave me a smile that said, “I remember those days,” or, “That woman has her hands full.” Or maybe she was amused by the colorful language I use in front of my kids.
But I digress.
I couldn’t fail my friend since I knew how badly she and the kids wanted to go to the beach, so off we went.
The trip didn’t start out great since we had to park three blocks away, but we managed to schlep all of the stuff and get there sweaty but alive. Then my daughter threw a fit when I tried to get her in her swimsuit.
But we settled in, as did my inner control freak over the sand. Oh my God, the sand. The sand on me. The sand in my daughter’s mouth as she eats her sandy goldfish. The sand on her sippy cup. The sand on my son after he literally rolled in the sand after coming out of the water.
The sand was caked so heavily on my son’s hair that it dusted into his eyes which he then rubbed with his sandy hands. The sand might be at the top of my list of beach annoyances.
Then there’s the constant worry about my son to ensure that he isn’t going too deep in the water while still staying with my toddler back on the towel. Some people describe the beach as relaxing. I am not one of Those People.
I don’t even really like going in the water. I don’t like stepping on unknown objects beneath my feet or the fact that I could encounter a creature that lives there. It creeps me out. I’m That Girl.
Meanwhile, Ashley took my son out in the water and jumped with him in the waves for a good long time. Parker looked thrilled beyond description. Then she came up with the most amazingly creative idea to use the seaweed to make skirts to wear for her and the girls.
As I watched my friend have an absolutely amazing time at the beach, I felt pretty low. I was back on the towel counting the minutes until we could leave. I didn’t want to be me in that moment. I didn’t want to be bothered by the sand and the weight of the difficulty the beach is with two young children. I wanted to be her: carefree and in the moment.
Why haven’t I ever taken Parker out in the waves before? Partly because I have to stay with my daughter, but if I’m honest with myself, that’s not the only reason. I felt inadequate as a mom watching Ashley’s natural ability to be the “fun mom.”
This isn’t the first time that I’ve felt this way around my friend. I can write openly about this because she knows that I absolutely love her unconditionally. She is, quite simply, amazing. She homeschools her two children, keeps her house spotless, and makes her meatballs from scratch. On top of it, she makes it all look effortless. If I didn’t love her as hard as I do, I just might hate her.
That night, Parker woke up screaming. His legs ached from a big, active day, and he moaned in pain. I gave him some children’s Ibuprofen and laid down with him in bed to rub his back until the medicine kicked in. He was so grateful for me in that moment that he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.
As I lay there listening to his breath steady, I laughed a little and then cried a little as I spoke to God, thanking Him for the gentle reminder that I am enough. I thought about how life works like the tide at the beach, how sometimes we are low and have forgotten our worth, and just as quickly the tide can turn and show us the value that only each of us individually can offer.
If life is a beach, and the tides are our emotions, then I would argue that our ego is the rip current. It’s dangerous and left unchecked it can pull us under and leave us lost at sea. The ego loves the comparison game, and I would liken the comparison game to an attempt to swim against the rip current. It’s exhausting and gets you nowhere.
I’m never going to be Ashley. I fully admit that I will never have the patience to homeschool, my house is often messy, and I buy frozen meatballs at Trader Joe’s.
I think motherhood is hard. Wonderful, yes, but hard.
And the sand. For the love of God, THE SAND.
I can only be Kristen. I’m working on having grace for Kristen.