by Allana Pratt
We swirl our fingers through luscious shaving cream on the bright red picnic table. This lasts barely a minute before my soapy toddler and I are in full fledged foam fight. We artfully compare our sudsy Mohawks, rinse off and retire for a restorative nap. His trumpeting voice alerts me that he’s ready to race into the afternoon, so crouching down on all fours, I enter the room clucking like a chicken. He laughs hysterically as I beam.
Maybe it was giving birth, spreading my legs for all to see, that dismantled my preoccupation with what people thought of me. Until the birth of my son, I was wired to seek approval for my every decision. Disapproval felt like finger nails down a chalk board. I remember the shame of being turned away by my former husband, too preoccupied with work to enjoy my surprise lunchtime strip tease. I remember women’s glances of pity as I, the poor girl who hadn’t the pedigree to know any better, chatted and tore open my power bar for a homeless fingerless man.
I valued other’s approval more than my own eroticism or generosity. The insecure lens through which I saw the world opened- literally- during birth. My thoughts and behaviors were now molding an innocent human being. I had been waiting for permission to stop flat lining through life. Motherhood became my portal to freedom.
My own mom once told me, “You wouldn’t care so much about what people think of you if you knew how little they did.” At the local diner her wisdom comforts me as my son smashes eggs and hash browns into his hair then plops into the public fountain. I’m reminded that he’s washable. Dryable. I encourage myself to savor these tender moments.
From my new vantage point, it turns out dirt is decadent, mess is marvelous and hugging trees is grand. My creativity abounds as we picnic in the back yard tree house, read under forts of blankets, nap in tents in his room. My brain says I don’t have the time or energy for this silliness! But my heart whispers, “nourish and liberate your soul to the brim with sticky hands and make-believe.”
This latitude has spilled over into juicy girlfriend time. Instead of victim sessions over the phone, we have fun painting each other’s toes in the driveway at sunset and dining by candle light on the shag rug around the coffee table. Conversations are magical, laughter intoxicating and insights divinely inspired. I’m still pissy on my period, beside myself when my kid clobbers another kid, and mad when drivers cut me off, yet these moods pass quickly because I now see joy is my choice, my responsibility, my gift to myself.
Being able to lovingly laugh at myself through the process sustains that joy. Bless motherhood for pouring forth my wellspring of happiness. Let’s just hope my son forgets that I clucked like a chicken. Actually, let’s hope not.