Like a lot of adults over 30, I did not get to choose how I spent my birthday this year. So, there I was, celebrating at Valleyfair in Shakopee, Minnesota, home of Wild Thing, a rollercoaster that goes as high in the air as it can without interfering with incoming aircraft, reaching speeds higher than most states allow on any interstate freeway.
I am not even remotely an adrenaline junkie. In fact, my idea of a rush is not wearing my life jacket on a pontoon ride. But instead of fighting against the tide of my family’s excitement, I tried to make the best of it while setting very clear boundaries.
More than once, I declared, “It’s my birthday, and I will not be bullied into doing anything I don’t want to do.”
A strong backbone only goes so far in the face of a begging 8 year old, so luckily, I had an even better excuse to refuse to ride – my 5 year old. She is the perfect size for the Planet Snoopy rides but just a couple inches shy of the minimum for the more intense rides.
“You guys go,” I said to my husband and oldest daughter. “I’ll stay with her.”
It made me feel like a good mom. The little one was happy I was with her. Dad and big sister got to ride all the rides they wanted. I didn’t have to do anything that scared me. It was a win-win-win-win. Or so I thought.
Every so often, they circled back with us, eyes lit up like matching blue fireworks, smiles plastered across their faces.
“Steel Venom is the best!”
“That’s my favorite so far too! Should we do the Rip Cord?”
“Yeah! But let’s not do the Starship again. That was boring.”
“We should definitely go on Delirious though, and the Corkscrew again for sure.”
The two of them were speaking a language I didn’t understand. I started to feel like I was missing out as they took off for more adventures.
I waved to the little one as she rode up and down on the Kite-Eating Tree, but my eyes kept wandering over to the coasters.
I used to like this stuff. Maybe I should just do it.
My heart fluttered. Butterflies started dancing in my stomach. I could hear my heartbeat as my breath quickened ever so slightly.
Nah, forget it.
How often do we as moms do this? We “opt out” to watch the little ones. We use our motherly duties as an excuse to not take risks, or do scary things, or get out of our comfort zones. And, many times, we do so happily, convinced we are doing what is right, what is expected, and something no one can argue with.
I’m calling B.S.
Not on sitting out at Valleyfair – on sitting out at life. We have to stop using our kids as scape-goats.
Of course, there are legitimate times we need to tag out. Nobody wants to see you run a marathon with a newborn strapped to your chest. But if you are beyond that mentally and physically consuming stage of motherhood, step back and ask yourself if you are using your kids as an excuse not to try.
Being a mom takes a ton of time and energy, but it also builds invaluable skills that are needed in every aspect of our world. If you are a mom, you are a peacemaker, a rule-maker, an educator, a caretaker, a quick-thinking problem solver, and a hell of a strategist. If you weren’t, there is no way you could hold your head up long enough to read this. We need moms – like you and me – to be out there following our callings, building bridges, uniting communities.
If we “opt out” and use motherhood as an excuse, what is that saying to our kids, especially our daughters? Be a mom OR… something else. You can’t do both. I don’t know about you, but this is not the message I want my daughters to receive.
I want my daughters to know you can be an awesome mom AND…
…have a career.
…compete in sports.
…volunteer in your community.
….advocate for something you believe in.
…do something for no other reason than you love it and it’s fun.
So how do you ensure they are receiving the right message? It’s not by reigning them in and never letting them leave your sight. It’s by doing. By setting an example. By showing them that you can be a mom, this magical person who cures all ills, AND.
We cannot afford to have moms sitting on the sidelines. We have to play the game. We have to ride the Wild Thing.
And I did, literally. I screamed…a lot. I giggled…a lot. I thought I was going to throw up for a few seconds. But I know I made my daughter proud, and that was worth every terrifying second.