A couple days ago we were sitting on the blacktop of our local Target. My son was cuddled in my lap, looking sheepish and uncomfortable. Our car, his car seat, and his clothes were covered in the reminisce of his dinner. In that moment, people would look over at us. I assume, now, that they had judged the situation for what it was. A kid had gotten sick. We received sympathetic nods before outsiders would go about their business.
It wasn’t until the next day, I realized that this was a win for my journey. But, I’m wondering if I should back up just a bit.
Wednesday was my son’s first day of kindergarten, which went very well. It was also the first day a park in our neighborhood officially opened it’s playground. We decided, in hopes of tuckering him out so he could get to bed earlier (and maybe wake up on is own for school the next morning) we would take him to the park after dinner.
The park was, of course, amazing. There was a spinning structure that our son absolutely loved. He was probably on that thing, off and on, for almost an hour. Finally, he stumbled off it and came for a hug. He seemed tuckered out.
Here’s the thing about being the mom of a child with limited communication. They can’t tell you what’s wrong. You don’t get any warnings of, “Mommy, my tummy feels weird.” I’ll admit I noticed him putting his hand in his mouth. But, I didn’t make the connection until it was too late, and the back of our car looked like a scene from The Exorcist.
Of course, this happened when we were next to a Target parking lot. So, we pulled in. As much it may have been inappropriate, I actually smiled a bit. I remember when I had to learn this lesson, and realized what those signals from my stomach meant. We all had to learn moderation with spinning, especially in relation to meals. It is nice to come to those moments where we end up in situations every family faces. Even if it comes while being elbow deep in sick, it was nice to feel like every other family for awhile. I imagine almost every parent has experienced the same horrifying situation.
The thing about the situation that struck me the next morning, was how calm I was. For the first time in my parenting life, I wasn’t really worried what other people thought of us. A year ago, I would have been stressed out about people thinking we were bad parents because I was stripping off all my son’s clothes in a public parking lot. (Not to mention, who let’s their kid get sick, right?) It would have made me so nervous, and cranky.
But that day, it wasn’t even crossing my mind. It didn’t matter to me that there was a puke stain on my shirt, or that I was surrounded by clothes that looked and smelled like the day after a frat initiation party. I was focused on my son, making sure he was okay and figuring out how to support my husband who had the horrific task of cleaning the car.
Sometimes, being body positive can seem like a really selfish thing. We talk about loving ourselves, and loving who we see in the mirror. For me, it has been a journey about realizing what other people think of me is none of my business. Whether it is in my dancing, hiking, or comforting my sick child in a public parking lot, I am learning to not rent any space in my head to the thoughts of others.
That, my friends, is what freed me from the chains of self doubt. I have to work just as hard to disassociate my internal dialog from the opinions of others as what I say to myself when I look in the mirror.
And, maybe I wasn’t expecting this journey to make me a better mother, and wife, but it has. A year ago I would have rushed my son out of his clothes, and loudly chastised myself for letting my son get sick. I would have yelled at my husband to hurry, and projected my own insecurities onto him. Instead, I sat on the blacktop of Target, cuddling my son who wasn’t feeling well, thankful that we had an extra set of clothes with us. There was no rush, no hurry, and no discomfort about what other people might think. My husband and I worked as a team, both calmly and without blame or anger.
After the ordeal was over, and were back home, our son returned to his normal self. We had learned a valuable lesson about spinning play structures and after dinner park visits.