Someday I’d like to introduce my kids to ME, the ME I was before they were born. That girl was fun.
She read and wrote all the time and had dinner with friends in cute bistros. She and her boyfriend (now husband and father to the three kids) got lost on back roads in her two-seater convertible and would watch the sun go down over a lake. He would play his guitar, she’d sing, and they’d have gas station beer and sandwiches for dinner without any cares in the world.
Today, with kids, a mortgage, more stress, more responsibilities, more laundry, more everything, we can’t just take off anymore. Now, we pack extra snacks, drinks, outfits, and car games. Has everyone napped? Is the stroller in the car? Where’s the sunscreen?
Planning ahead is exhausting. Parenthood is exhausting. We all need time to recharge our batteries.
My husband and I take vacations without the kids to remind ourselves why we started this crazy ride. A few years ago, we dropped the kids with their grandparents and took off to the world’s cheapest all-inclusive resort in Mexico for a few days of spontaneous adulthood, which is where this story begins.
We spent a long, glorious day in the sun on the beach and worked our way back to the pool by late afternoon. I read People magazine and trashy novels. My husband dozed next to me, and every time our all-inclusive drinks looked low, a lovely waiter would appear with another.
As the sun sank lower, a big group moved to the swim-up bar in the pool, and we joined them. People introduced themselves and explained where they were from, their jobs, and how they’d found Isla Mujeres. The water was only four feet deep, so we all stood around, laughing, drinking, and enjoying the beautiful day.
A small bridge spanned the pool so guests didn’t have to walk completely around the large pool to get food and drinks. The men began a jumping contest. The bridge was only three feet off the water, but there were some nice moves. I must mention that most of these people were honeymooners at least ten years younger than I and in much better shape.
When a 22-year-old muscular military guy chickened out on a flip off the bridge, I heckled him. Holding drink-number-who-knows high in the air, I yelled, “WEAK!!!” Everyone laughed, and I thought he would just take the joke in stride.
“You get up here and do it then, mama!” (I must also add that I was wearing a swimsuit that clearly should’ve had MOM written across the boobs. A tankini. Very supportive and holdy-inny…from the Lands End motherhood collection.)
“Bring it ON!” I yelled back. The pool party turned its attention toward me.
My husband panicked. “Carrie, this is not a good idea.”
“I’ll be fine! I totally do this all the time at your parents’ pool,” I reassured him. This was a lie. I had back-flipped about three times in his parents’ pool in the past ten years and ended up with a splitting headache each time.
“Not after endless cocktail hour,” he reminded me.
“I have to go up there. I can do this,” I replied. For once, I wasn’t somebody’s wife or mother. I reveled in the spontaneous moment, reliving a piece of my fun-girl past, even if it was probably not the smartest move I’d ever made.
“Car-RIE, Car-RIE, Car-RIE!” the pool denisons chanted my name. There was a chant. I couldn’t very well back out after that now, could I?
I slowly made my way up to the bridge in my dripping Lands End suit. As I stood over the people in the pool, asking God to forgive me for this idiocy, I also regretted not springing for the miniskirt bottoms which had only cost an extra fifteen dollars and would’ve covered considerably more of my post-children ass.
Poised for a back flip, I turned to the crowd. “I’m a mother! Tell my kids I love them!” Everyone laughed. “Is there a doctor in the house, just in case?” My next one-liner was part funny, part serious inquiry. A guy in the back raised his hand. Go time.
Time slowed, and I took a few deep breaths. A lady with a cell phone promised to video my ultimate triumph or demise. And I leapt.
Calling forth a sixteen-year-old cheerleader I hadn’t been in a long time, I tucked my knees to my chest, rotated in the air, and landed perfectly feet first in forty-eight inches of water.
The crowd went wild as I popped my head out of the water. The military guy was the first to congratulate me, handing me a fresh drink and a sheepish smile that the old lady had called his bluff.
“I hope your kids hear about this someday!” “You’ve still got it, mama!” “That was amazing!” And, from an impossibly young teenager who was there with her parents: “I hope I’m that cool when I’m, um, your age.”
Afterwards, I chewed my husband out for letting me do such a stupid thing. He admitted he was a little worried that my life insurance policy wasn’t so good and wondered how he would explain my untimely demise in a Mexican pool to our children in a way that didn’t sound like a redneck joke.
Then, he kissed me and said he couldn’t be prouder. I spent the rest of the vacation as “the back-flip mommy,” and totally enjoyed the notoriety.
I’ve come to realize that I’m the same me. That girl who sang and drank with her boyfriend in her early twenties is the same girl who back-flipped off the bridge in Mexico in her mid-thirties. She’s also the girl who’s changed diapers every day since 2007, who’s heated chicken nuggets and made peanut butter and jelly and logged a million carpool miles. She taught high school English for eleven years, and now she stays home and tucks her three beautiful children into bed each night. She loves her husband endlessly.
I guess my kids know the real me after all. We aren’t meant to stay the same, or look the same, or be the same person we were ten or twenty years ago. Ten years from now, we will be the same and yet different again because change is okay and inevitable. Yes, my kids know me. But I’ll wait a few years before they hear about the back-flip.