Great wolf Lodge, Fitchburg, MA
I stood at the top of the water slide and my nerves were wreaking havoc on me. I was shaking and my mind-raced as it played through the many worst-case scenarios imaginable to this overly-anxious mom. My kids had begged me to go down the family water slide with them. It would be the 4 of us in a big raft, speeding down a dark tunnel with drops of unknown depths.
I knew I had to do it this time. I had chickened out the day before, while my kids squealed in delight as they went down water slide after water slide. They giggled and teased me and made me pinky promise I would go down the family slide with them before our trip was over. I promised I would do it; and as I squeezed their pinkies with a promise of tomorrow, I wondered if they wished dad was with us.
Dad was the water-slide guru, after all. He was always the fun one. He still is, I guess. It is just that we travel separately now, since the divorce (duh!), and even in his absence, I was jealous. I wanted to be fun like him. I wanted to put my anxieties and crazy need to control everything and everyone aside and prove to my kids- and to myself- that we could have our own vacation minus dad and that I could be just as fun! Now was the time to shine and take a small step out of my comfort zone. What do I have to lose? I thought. Maybe I can be fun like him, too.
I stood at the top of that water slide on day two and remembered the sign: Go for the Moment. It was posted throughout the Great Wolf Lodge hotel. Go for the moment, I thought. I can do this. I can be fun, adventurous, water-slide mom. So I hopped in, threw my hands in the air, and let go of who I thought I was; and I said hello to the new, fun-version of me as I sped down the slide.
How many moments had I missed when I was the sideline mom, leaning on my husband because it had already been decided that he was the fun one? How many water slide and roller coaster rides did I miss because there was someone else there to say, sure, I will go on it with you? How many times had I watched the moment from afar instead of going for it?
Too many to count. But that was the old me. Go for the moment became my motto, and I didn’t hold back. I went down that water slide and liked it. So I did it again. And again. And again. When it was time for Bingo in the lobby, I sat down next to the kids, ready to cheer them on. Then Emmet handed me a Bingo card. I can’t play, I thought, there are no other parents playing. But he said, please mom, and I said, hell yea, cause I am going for this moment, too. When the kids lined up for the Conga dance on the pool deck, I didn’t wait to be asked. I just joined in and conga-d my way around that pool deck with a bunch of ten-year-olds and not a care in the world. I went for every damn moment and loved every one.
Life is too short to miss out on the moments. Life is too short for excuses or labels and is way too short to stay stuck in your comfort zone. Sometimes, something really great and beautiful and life-changing and unexpected comes out of the most painful and challenging experiences. When I got divorced, I thought life as I knew it was over. But the truth is it was just beginning.
Divorce shakes this up, that is for sure. It has forever changed me as a mother and a person. Without anticipating it, it ripped my maternal identity to shreds as I slowly redefined myself one moment at a time. I used to be the mom who sat by and watched my kids have fun with their young-at-heart, fun dad, while I indulged in relaxation, drinking wine and being an onlooker. More significantly, wherever my ex succeeded as a parent, I receded. I was 50% of the parental-unit 100% of the time. I think I was afraid of stepping up; I didn’t trust myself then. But now that we are divorced, I am 100% of the parent 50% of the time. Divorce pushed me there, and for that I am grateful. Now, I go down water slides, and I dance the macarena and somehow, I, too am young at heart. A quick trip to Great Wolf Lodge reminded me of this, and my experiences there helped me to appreciate that it’s not only crises like divorce that push us toward courage. Sometimes a push down a waterslide or an inspirational sign will do the trick.
This story originally appeared on Today Show Parenting Community