I have had the pleasure of spending the past week at the beach with my babes.
We have savored our time here. We have enjoyed new things in new ways. We have eaten ice cream for breakfast; we have had nightly talent shows; we have chased seagulls, caught clams, gone on rollercoasters and stayed in our bathing suits from 7am to 7pm on our best days. It has been liberating and sunny, in every sense of the word.
In recent years, many things have prevented me from being able to do this. And by “do this” I don’t just mean my ability to enjoy this, but, to be completely candid, to even visit Mommom and Poppop’s beach house at all.
Yes, there have been scheduling issues and work obligations and weather anomalies, but, for a long time, I was simply too anxious. Now, I maintain that I absolutely did what was right for me and for my family at the time. The past several years have been healing and transformative, and we needed to stay home and focus on settling into a new house and preparing for new school after new school. But, this summer, something changed.
I decided to book a proverbial one-way-ticket to the beach house, without a single plan.
How long would we stay? What would we do? How many times would we have to shuttle back and forth to Philadelphia for meetings and appointments?
My answer was a resounding and universal, “I don’t know. And that is OK.”
I like to think of myself as a mom who is the fun, dance-partying, bohemian-sway-among-the-flowers-in-our-garden type.
“I’m not like a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.”
And while I am those things, I am also someone who likes order, control and stability. I have a calendar and alarms and, sometimes, I am emailing with a teacher or doctor while I am swaying among the flowers in our garden.
But, besides being grateful for this gift of time with my kids (and, for a lot of our stay, a house filled with four generations of family members), I am also grateful for something less obvious, but deeply important:
I am grateful for my growth. It has been years since I have driven to the shore by myself, and last week I did so with just my daughter, and while we drove we listened to the original 1996 cast recording of “Rent” and I sang along to every word.
“This is big,” I told her. “This is the musical that first really got me into musicals.”
(Because now, she is really into musicals. But, that is another story for another day.)
There has been freedom in every step of this visit.
Late last week, my extended family and I all gathered around a large, round table in the corner of a local restaurant. It was a nice restaurant, with pristine, white tablecloths and ambient music. Halfway through the meal, as I watched Belle take down a plate of eggplant parmesan and Beau in fits of giggles with my uncle, I realized how much we have all transformed. Going out used to be stressful for me, for myriad reasons. Now, it is just — well — normal. And, even the parts that are stressful (I never knew how loud a dropped dish could be, especially without breaking) are, for lack of a better expression, NBD.
In reflecting back upon this past week, I turned to this post, written almost eight years ago, when Belle was exactly eight months old. I called it, “The Top 10 Things You Will Do When Going Out to a Nice Meal With a Baby” and in reading through my list, I remember that evening so vividly that it’s almost scary. Granted, my kids are no longer babies, so the list would not apply to me anymore whether I had evolved a lot or not at all, but it is emblematic of the change I have experienced over the past eight years. Or, more accurately, the past several. When Beau was born, everything changed. At first, I was broken. But, in breaking down to the ground, into a million little pieces, I was given an unexpected gift. I was able to slowly, methodically, creatively put myself back together again, creating a new Becca. I am like a cubist version of myself; a mosaic made of the sum of both old parts reflected from a new angle and some new, stronger parts. Had I not had the “Hard Story” I would not be able to enjoy this “Hopeful Story” in the same way.
I would not know to appreciate the blue, sugary mess of melted popsicle that has dripped down Beau’s arm almost every day for the past week, or the smile brimming from his blue-hued lips.
I would not know that it is OK to travel without Purell.
Oh how things have changed.
I have included the list from my original blog post below, just to give you a laugh. For, if you know me today, you will see just how different I am from the 25-year-old who first created it. Also, there are still some valuable pieces of advice and, you know, I aim to please.
I still think there is merit in making sure you keep exposed skin and gossip to a minimum while in a nice restaurant.
I do love a good lychee-based cocktail.
But I no longer worry about the little things in the same way. And, if I do, I try my very best to not let those little things stop me. As Belle once said, “fear is just another reason to try harder.”
So, that is what I do.
With sand in my hair and warmth in my heart,
“The Top 10 Things You Will Do When Going Out to a Nice Meal With a Baby”
Originally published December 19, 2010
10. You will call ahead to the restaurant to ensure that they are child friendly. You will make sure that they have high chairs. And avocado mashing abilities. And liquor. Lots of liquor. *see #7
9. You will pack a suitcase filled with baby toys, baby snacks, baby rattles, baby teethers, baby cheesedoodles, People magazines and multiple changes of baby clothes.
8. You will order food that, if need be, can be eaten with one hand. No thick cuts of meat, here. You may not be able to use a fork and knife at the same time, folks.
7. You will drink. You will order lychee mimosa after lychee mimosa, and then top them off with a sake mojito. *see #10
6. You won’t get carded. (May also be filed under “You will pout.” and “You will make mental note to invest in new eye cream.”)
5. You will apologize to the people around you; to the woman sitting two tables away who got rice stuck in her fresh blow-out; to the man seated right behind you, who will have to continually answer the baby’s request for “Hi? Hi! Hi? Hi!”
4. You will take the antsy baby to the bathroom to try to nurse her. This will not be easy because you’ve just enjoyed your lychee mimosas and sake mojitos. And there are stairs involved. And a blouse with buttons. And you will use your one free hand to slap yourself in the face while telling yourself to “get it together” to make sure that when you’re finished, you can walk back into the restaurant without your boob hanging out for all to see. You will check in the mirror 5 times to make sure that you have, in fact, put your boob away, closed your blouse and tucked in your shirt. You will still walk through the restaurant, back to your table, sure that there’s at least one button undone, exposing two extra inches of unnecessary, inappropriate flesh to your fellow diners.
3. You will disinfect everything. You will Purell the baby’s hands. You will Purell the table. Then the hands, again. Then the table, once more. You will keep doing this until your husband tells you that you’re being crazy and to “get it together.” And that you’ve gotten some Purell foam in your hair.
2. You will, at some point in the evening, inevitably have to change the baby’s diaper. You will not, however, be able to use a changing station, as such restaurants never have anything of the sort. Diapers are not chic. Instead, you, your sister and the baby will cram into the tiny bathroom stall, and while your sister holds up the baby, facing you, so that baby’s legs are dangling, you will remove the baby’s diaper, wipe her, apply diaper cream and put on a new diaper, while the baby kicks and squeals, and you and your sister gossip about people, hoping that they can’t hear you from the next stall over.
And the number 1 thing you will do when going out to a nice meal with a baby?
1. You will pray. Because when all as said and done, it does not matter what you pack or whom you call; baby does what baby wants, so all you can do is hope for the best and keep breathing. One lycheemosa at a time.