It wasn’t too long ago that Catherine and I decided to have a “Girl’s Day”. It was a gorgeous day, the weather was perfect. When I asked what she wanted to do, she replied that she would like to go to the pool. My heart immediately sunk.
The dreaded pool. The embarrassing swimsuit. The excess weight gain that I can’t blame on Baby weight any more since my kids are 12 and 15.
I tired to negotiate, “Let’s go to the river instead, I know a nice secluded spot that is just perfect.” She reluctantly agreed to go to this elusive spot that I completely over-exaggerated, mainly because we had already passed two swimming pools and I had a panic attack about the over-crowded parking lot and started crying.
We trudged in the muddy water, both of us completely miserable, but still determined to have a good time. It didn’t take long for her to lose her sandal, we both watched it float downstream as I did my best to chase it while sliding on the rocks, barely able to breath because of the frigid water temperature.
As I was retrieving the sandal, she was sneaking out of the river. I turned around, sandal in hand, she was headed to the car laughing at me as I was trying to balance myself on the rocks.
We get in the car, she asked again if we could just go to the pool. I had a brief internal nervous breakdown and off we drove to my version on hell….Oh, I mean Pool.
When we got there, she immediately spotted some friends, there was a bench conveniently empty next to them so we snatched it up and I encouraged her to go hang out with them. She did, the girls ignored her. She tried so hard to fit in, but they got up and gathered into a circle around the fence with their cell phones, taking selfies with their tongues stuck out, which I am pretty sure has taken the place of “duck lips”. She sat on the bench that they were hanging out at trying to casually make her way back to me without looking like a total loser, after a few minutes, she made her way back to me.
We sat there silently for a little bit, then she asked if I would like to go swimming with her. I am pretty sure I never felt so comfortable in a swimsuit in my life. I asked her if she was ok while we were wading in the pool. She laughed and said of course she was, she wanted to hang out with me anyway.
I will be honest, I wasn’t sure how that comment made me feel. Proud, that she wanted to be with me. Sad, that this stupid cruel world we live in thinks it is acceptable to hurt a little girl who is just so desperate to find a friend. Completely pissed off, that these prissy little jerks have their faces in their phones 24/7 and can’t see that there is a great big world out there that they are missing.
Kids know nothing about “Changing the World” anymore. They don’t know how to be good citizens or friends to kids who may be just a little different than them. They search for that one group of friends that act just like them, while taking advantage of bikini season Posing half naked in their provocative selfies desperate for a boy to notice them. The conversations they were having was sickening to hear, and I was actually happy to know that my daughter was not part of that particular group.
As we wrapped up our pool excursion and made our way back home, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She just doesn’t seem to fit in. Sure, she is different. It’s not her fault, God decided to wire her a bit differently than other kids. Her heart is the same. Actually, I am proud to say, her heart is way bigger than others. It is unfortunate that kids want to grow up so fast, whatever happened to just going to a pool and actually going swimming? If you want to relax poolside, how about read a book or entertain each other by….wait for it….talking to each other!!
I learned a few lessons that day.
- Just wear the swimsuit, and wear it proud! I earned every stretch mark.
- Ok, so maybe I need to go on a diet…..
- I am raising my kids to be good humans.
- I am teaching her to love every one, no matter their ethnicity, disability or social status.
- There is nothing more beautiful than a good heart.
- I can’t punch, trip or drown mean girls because that would be frowned upon.
The older she gets, the more she notices that she is different. She is not one to let me take a picture of her because she thinks she is ugly. She quietly blends in when she is around kids her age, or she retreats to me or another adult. Social situations, no matter how hard she tries, can sometimes be an overwhelming experience for her.
I don’t pressure her to be around kids her age, but I do pray that God sends her that one special friend that embraces her nerdiness and her weird tendencies and loves her anyway.
Today, she had the opportunity to hang out with her cousin and her friend that happens to live next door to us. Due to a full summer schedule they hadn’t been able to see each other for quite some time. I had some work to do at The Greenbrier and decided to invite them to tag along with me. Gave them some money and told them to have fun. They went to dinner at Draper’s and shared a giant banana split for dessert, then took off for a few hours to explore. We caught up after I finished up and decided to take a walk and enjoy the evening.
The teenager that is totally camera shy came out of her shell with the help of her friends. They laughed and joked, making the pictures burst with personality and self confidence. There were no selfies. They weren’t trying to impress anyone. It was just three friends enjoying each other. Talking. Laughing. Just being kids.
On the way home, they were talking about the things they used to do with each other when they were younger, playing with their American Girl dolls, climbing the neighbors tree house, sledding on the coldest of winter days.
“I wish we were young again.” they all said simultaneously.
I put my sunglasses on, not because the sun was too bright, but to hide the tears in my eyes. Ages 16, 15, and 13 were talking about wanting to be young again, while I am trying desperately to stop my aging process by wearing excess amounts of anti-aging sunscreen, buying the latest and greatest wrinkle cream, liposuction, boob job, tummy tuck…yet I am still embarrassed to be seen in a bathing suit. All because I so desperately wanted someone to love me. I needed his approval. I told myself over and over again that I was not good enough.
What was I teaching my daughter? What am I going to teach her?
- I am going to stop worrying so much about my, not so fit, swimsuit body and teach my daughter to love herself.
- I am going to teach her that if you are lucky enough to have one friend, you are truly blessed.
- I am going to teach her that she never has to have the approval of a boy to make her a beautiful woman.
- She will be taught to be strong, independent and able to stand on her own.
- She will always be loved and she will be taught to love.
So you’re a little weird? Work it!! A little different? OWN it! Better to be a nerd than one of the herd! -Mandy Hale
**This particular pool incident took place a few weeks ago, I am proud to say that this Momma wore a very modest high wasted bikini to the beach last week and we had the time of our lives!! She also made a super cool, nerdy friend from Tennessee and they spent the week together swimming and crabbing!!