everything but the sunscreen

You know how sometimes people say the funniest things when they’re not trying to be funny? Or reveal the most about themselves when they’re not trying to be particularly revealing? 

This weekend I was Skype-ing (Skyping?) with a group of moms who had read my book, and we were talking about trying to let go and just enjoy being a mom. One of the mothers said:

“When we’re with our kids, the fun should supersede everything!… Well. Everything but the sunscreen.” 

I LOVED this. She’s right, of course: moms shouldn’t ever be so let-it-all-hang-out that we skip the SPF 30. If you’re like me, you’ve probably learned from experience. Nothing brings the Mother Load of Guilt than a toddler with lobster-red shoulders.

But what really struck me was what this mom was doing in this sentence: while telling herself she needed to do better and be more relaxed, she did a 180 and warned herself against getting TOO relaxed. IN THE SAME SENTENCE, she managed to feel stressed about not letting go, and about letting go too much.

That’s not her fault, of course– we mothers get blamed when our kids get sunburned, and snickered at when we bring them to the town pool dressed like this. 

And there’s only so long one’s kids will wear a swim shirt anyhow, not to mention the Lawrence of Arabia type hats. This is Connor a few years back. Maggie is already saying hells to the no on that look, and she’s three. 

What I’m saying is, mothers can’t win, and listening to this mom castigate herself as both too slacker-ish and too uptight in the scope of five seconds was pretty funny.

Here’s what mothers need to remember: we ARE the ones who need to remember the sunscreen. The reason our kids (and our partners) can be so carefree is because they know we’ve got their backs. If it’s important, we’ll have thought of it already. Sometimes being the Responsible Grownup is a lot of pressure. But we shouldn’t add annoyance with ourselves on top of it: why can’t we ever  relax? We should try to relax, we should try to let things go. Everything, that is, but the sunscreen. And then we should pat ourselves on the back when everyone makes it through another day without getting burned.

How strict ARE you with the sunscreen, by the way?