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Fat thighs to volcano climbs

Moms I know say the most brilliant things.

The other day I was talking to a friend while she was changing her baby’s diaper, and we were admiring the baby’s very chunky thighs and puffy cheeks. “Wouldn’t it be great if we valued these things in women, too?” my friend wondered aloud.

Then she took on the persona of a macho young man checking out a “babe” on the street. “Ooh, look at those chunky thighs,” he said with appreciation. “Check out that sexy back fat!”

We laughed together over her impersonation of the guy that doesn’t exist. It occurred to me, though, that amongst women (and men) who have become comfortable with the state of our imperfect bodies, we do, in fact, have conversations like that.

Another mom I know was remarking how occasionally she gets mistaken for being pregnant, and how she’d done that recently when she saw a friend massaging her rather prominent belly. “I thought she was pregnant,” my friend said. “But then I realized that she was just loving up her baby belly.”

That particular mom does nothing to hide the evidence of her two past births. She is fit and slim for the most part, and she wears comfortable, fun clothing. She exudes an air of happiness and comfort with her role of mom and her changed physique.

Really, why shouldn’t we love that change that our babies bring? Though at times we lament the lost freedom of our single, carefree days, I haven’t met a parent yet who thinks that their lives weren’t in general much improved by the arrival of their kids. Yes, we have less time. Yes, we have less money. Sure, we have to work to get time alone with our spouses or doing the thing that we love to do for ourselves.

But in that compressed time we have, we notice the passage of time more concretely. Recently my son grew so that I can no longer put my chin on his head without craning my neck. That’s the sort of milestone that has meaning to a parent. I don’t remember any milestone like that in the many adult years before I had kids.

Despite that smaller amount of time we have for the pursuits of the single adult, we learn more and grow more than we ever did before. Parents are put through emotional and physical tests daily. I do things now that I never thought possible. I may have climbed the cone of an active volcano when I was childless, but I have managed to learn to get through a day without a complete meltdown even when I’ve been sleep deprived for three years. Imagine that!

When you have a baby, you lose some of your past physical attributes. I am still keeping some of my pre-kid clothing, but I know it’s hopeless. I am never getting back that 25-year-old slim waist, and eventually I’ll probably give the clothing to my daughter for dress-up! (That’s what my mom did with her party dresses from fifties high school dances.)

But you gain new abilities. I love the title of a blog entry on local doula April Stearns’ blog: I Make Milk; What’s Your Superpower?.

I find that now that my kids are 6 and 10, I still have the ability I developed when they were small to make a baby laugh. Before I had kids, it didn’t occur to me before that being able to make a baby laugh was a talent worth aspiring to.

I have also developed my multi-tasking abilities further than I ever thought possible. As long as I write everything down on my to do list, I seem to be able to cram approximately three times as much stuff into a day as I could before I had children. True, before I had children I went to the pool and had a long swim several times a week. But now I have figured out how to work a vigorous walk into my day, often before my daughter has gotten out of bed. Certainly before I would have gotten out of bed in my pre-kid days.

It occurs to me that at least one thing I did when I was childless I recently did again with children: This summer we climbed the cone of a volcano. It was my fourth volcano, and only one of those climbs took place before I had kids. But here’s the difference: before I had kids, I went to Guatemala and climbed an actively erupting volcano at sunset to see the fireworks after the sun went down. A week after we returned from our trip, a tourist was hit with a glob of lava on that very spot and lost half her face.

The volcanos I climb these days are closer to home, and far less dangerous. But although I am not risking losing half my face, we parents do choose to risk the difficulties of a cranky child or a sudden need for a potty break halfway up. I think we end up with a deeper picture of the fewer and less dangerous things we do. From Guatemala, I carry the memory of the little flashes of lightning over the active cone. From Mount Lassen, I carry the memory of my ten-year-old son and his friend emerging from the long-dormant cone, seasoned hikers, victorious climbers.

And of my daughter, who crankily refused to climb, greeting me at the bottom with a big smile: “Now I’m ready to go, Mommy!”

It’s never too late.

Posted in Culture, Parenting.

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