While jumping on the trampoline with my stepdaughter, I realized something about myself. As a mother, I am afraid to let go and play with my kids.
True, I was jumping for the first time since we got the trampoline over 2 years ago, but I was doing it halfheartedly and cautiously. I worried about falling down and hurting myself, or bumping into my stepdaughter in midair. One thing was certain. I wasn’t having fun.
My body has not felt like my own for a while. 2015 was the year of my son’s birth. 2016 was my daughter’s birth. Now it is 2017, and I am still breastfeeding my daughter and working on losing the baby weight. I’m never going to have my pre-baby body back, but that is ok. The stretchmarks and C-section scars are my battle wounds. They are constant reminders of what a mother’s body is capable of.
As I reluctantly hopped (can’t call it jumping really); I felt like my body was rusty and tense. It was as if I was testing out my sea legs after too much time spent on solid ground. As someone who used to take great pride in her physical fitness, I now felt ashamed.
I refuse to be the mom that cannot go play outside with her kids. As a child, I was always outdoors playing. My happiest childhood memories are of life on my dad’s 80-acre farm. Running, jumping, riding, swimming, and exploring; my sisters and I did it all.
We had a trampoline too, (albeit with no protective netting, because apparently 25 years ago, parents didn’t care if their children got catapulted off the sides.) Many summer days were spent jumping and flipping on the trampoline with my sisters. Some nights we brought our sleeping bags out and slept under the stars, atop our trampoline. Those were the days of carefree innocence.
When I look at my kids playing outside, it makes me smile, seeing the childlike joy and excitement in their faces. It’s fun to watch my toddler and infant discover new things. My 7-month-old ambles across the driveway in her walker, shrieking in delight when her big brother comes up from behind and pushes her. My 1 year old feeds sticks (and rocks, and acorns) through the chain link fence to our hyperactive puppy dog.
Experiences that I take for granted as an adult, are new adventures and discoveries for my son and daughters.
Perhaps I should observe less and engage more. Mothers often sit back watching to make sure that their kids don’t get hurt, or ramble off, or misbehave, instead of jumping in and playing with their children.
My husband plays with the kiddos all the time. In the evenings, there is wrestling and dog piling on daddy. There is also trampoline jumping, and Tag, and soccer. When my niece and nephews stay the night, they look forward to Hide and Seek in the dark (with flashlights), nerf gun wars, and board games.
Somewhere along the line, my husband became the “fun” parent, and I became the “strict” parent. As a stay at home mom of 2 under 2, it’s easy to get consumed by all the work that must be done to keep the house running smoothly. The never-ending laundry, dishes, diaper changes, meals, bottles and breastfeeding, cleaning up after my toddler tornado, picking up big sister from school, and so forth.
My life becomes a series of mundane tasks completed, then repeated. There are moments of joy, sure, but also many moments of exhaustion and frustration.
I have all but forgotten the joyful, exuberant child I once was.
I suspect many mothers are like me, so caught up in the responsibilities of childrearing, that they forget to stop and have fun.
Ten years from now, my children won’t remember that I kept the laundry clean or the house picked up, but they will remember that I played soccer with them, and jumped on the trampoline.
This is the request I make of myself and for all mothers like me:
Moms, do not be afraid to leap freely, higher and higher, until you regain your sense of childlike joy. Let go of the worries and insecurities that tether you to the ground, and simply revel in the moment, playing with your kids. The chores can wait a little longer. But your kids will not be young forever.