Thongs are back. That’s one top take-away from my spring break trip. It was a mom-brain accident as to why we landed in one of the top-party destinations during the high-tide of spring break revelry. We’d driven south to attend a wedding celebration at a neighboring beach town, but I’d forgotten to make lodging reservations. I blame it on mom-brain. It’s a thing.
I hesitantly gave my credit card information to the Panama City resort clerk who smacked her lips and said, “Girl, I’m just gonna be honest. You are going to see families here and you are gonna see full-scale spring breakers. It’s a lot of both.” Our condo unit was next door to Club La Vela- the largest beachside club in the United States- a place made famous by Pauly Shore, MTV (Carson Daly TRL era), and was currently advertising something known as a foam party. A place I’d gone in my twenties and was invited to dance on stage by none other than L.L. Cool J. I knew what we were getting into wasn’t a vacation bubble of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
But, regardless of the debauchery we were probably about to witness, we loaded up the one-year old, four-year old, and seven-year old and went on because…. beach. Enough said.
As promised the emerald coast was an equal mix of thongs walking in the surf and moms chasing toddlers out of the surf.
It was all one big juxtoposition. And thankfully my kids were oblivious to all the hedonism.
We even got into the elevator with two men smoking joints. My son and daughter were too busy fighting over “who got to push the button” to notice anything. I can say we all left that elevator feeling a bit more mellow. Second-hand smoke, ya’ll.
This wasn’t a hole-in-the-wall place either. During times, other than spring break, it would have been a proper family resort. Beach chair service. Security on staff. Garden tubs. But for now, it was overrun with kids of all ages. And we bonded with all the other parents and grandparents who sat on the beach monitoring toddlers gone crazy while shaking our heads at the world gone crazy. And silently remembering all the crazy hijinks we'd seen back in our day.
I learned a lot about myself as a mom and woman on this trip. Maybe it was that up in smoke elevator ride that got me in my philosophy mood or maybe it was my mid-thirty age. But I reflected on this trip and found myself in a really, really good place.
I didn’t let being surrounded by twenty-year olds- sunning their non-mom behinds in the sand, stop me from catching footballs in the sand with my blue-eyed seven-year old. My cellulite tush was covered up with my sensible high-waist bikini bottoms. And I was purely content.
I didn’t let being surrounded by non-sleep deprived twenty-year olds- emerging from their rooms at noon, stop my own sleep-deprived self from looking for sea shells with my blue-eyed girl. I was actually overjoyed that the black-circles under my sunglasses were from late-night diaper changes instead of being at a foam party (whatever that might be). And I was content in my present situation.
I didn’t let my squishy after three-kids belly stop me from building sandcastles with my squishy-faced blue-eyed toddler. Because I was content. (And rock-hard abs are so early 2000s, right?)
I didn’t let being surrounded by this fountain of youth stop my might be needing botox soon self from believing my husband when he said I was beautiful. I simply chose to believe him. I was content.
I didn’t let much of anything ruin my finding of joy.
Instead of dwelling in the oh woe is me first world problems that we often conjure in our minds as females, I ate my Oreos, popped open my coca-cola, gazed out over the ocean, and thanked God that I was in such a beautiful place—geographically and mentally.
Contentment is truly the best destination for any woman. I learned that even though I might have preferred the toned abs I had when I was under the influence of Brittany Spears and Christina Aguilera I wasn’t going to allow my old preferences rob me of my present joy.
I thought back to my twenty-year-old self who had walked this same beach. The girl who thought life could be planned with a ball-point pen, a planner, and a set of dreams. Now I know that I can’t even definitively plan the next five minutes of my life. Cause that bulleted-list doesn’t always factor in a crying baby who needs rocked, a four-year old girl who needs her toes painted bright pink, or a seven-year old boy just needs to build legos. Or factor in death, sickness, joys, and fun surprises like finding eggs under the rug.
Life is best embraced once we give into to the realization that perfection and plans are merely ideals and not measures of success. I was glad I had the wisdom those young girls had not yet attained.
Yeah, I am a wife and a mother who does have dreams. But I’ll hold loosely and not let them take a tight hold of me. I’d rather build sand castles than empires.
Yeah, I am a wife and mother who does miss her old body, full nights of sleep, and that thing called going to the bathroom alone. But I’ll enjoy the present and not make an idol of my past. I’d rather fly a kite on the beach instead of cower inside a hyper-critical mind.
Yeah, I am a wife and mother who is at the best place she’s ever been—content. That’s who I am. And who I hope to always be.
So on this trip I found myself humming Sisqo’s old Thong Song (a reference you’ll only understand if you grew up in the 90s) and deciding, once and for all, that it’s not forward or back that I’m interested in fixating my eyes upon. It’s the here and now. Those are the waves I want to crash into me. (Sorry, I couldn't resist).
And on this trip, I found that that same me -who in my twenties turned down dancing on stage with L.L Cool J because I was too embarrassed, danced my heart out at that beach wedding. I taught my daughter to do the Macarena, laughed while I failed miserably at the Wobble, and smiled at my husband as he danced with the toddler as Quad City DJ’s Come on Ride that Train blasted through the speakers. I was also equally parts impressed and equally parts humiliated that the four-year old ran to the dj and requested Baby Got Back. The musical collision of past and present was the perfect ending to the vacation that continuously juxtaposed past with present. I was happy to take a look back, but even happier to be right where I was---dancing with my family and then going back to our room for bedtime stories and sibling squabbles.
On this trip, and in life as I whole, I'm at my best when I'm caught up in just being - not striving and not pining for the past. I prefer to be catching hold of joy.
Who am I? I am content.
And to be perfectly honest, I'm also super content that thongs weren't a thing when I was a girl walking that beach in her twenties and that the only foam parties I'll ever be attending are the type where silly-string is given to children to spray on other children at birthday parties.
What about you? Who are YOU?