The water lapped against my skin as I sat on the warm sand. Finally-we were on vacation. I saw my husband lift our nearly three-year-old into the air, hearing his laughter radiate across sunfilled Lake Michigan. As I sat there, I had a few realizations hit me, and if I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting them to hit as hard as they did.
Time is fleeting. We spent four wonderfully sunny days at Lake Michigan, and it felt like they flew by. It made me think of how quickly the last few years have gone as well. My son will be three in November. I remember the nights of staring at walls, praying he would sleep just so that I could sleep; the days of wearing him as I tried to keep up with laundry are just memories that flicker now that he’s tall enough to help. The last year is nothing but a never-ending loop of anxiety that seems to be short when compared to how it felt in the moment.
Joy is simple. We packed light; this was our first visit to Lake Michigan, and we didn’t know any of the details. Parking, entry fees, setting up shop on the beach. We kept everything easy-minimal toys, a couple of towels, and snacks. We didn’t miss any of the things not packed. Water, sun, and sand are all we needed. My son loved the beach, and he found more entertainment from the waves than he missed having a plethora of toys. He even found that the beaches had playgrounds for when he didn’t want to play in the water. We didn’t have to spend money on unnecessary things and could instead focus on the experiences.
Get good sunscreen. The sun shines differently on a body of water. We splurged on sunscreen, and we bought several tubes-and even bought a face stick. It was the investment of our trip. Making sure it was safe for myself and my family was important, but also, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t impact the water life either. We are serious about what we put on our skin so choosing a reef-safe, mineral-based sunscreen for Lake Michigan was an easy decision. We also applied every hour; no sunscreen is all-day wear. At the end of our trip, we were sunkissed but not burnt.
Nature fixes everything. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that this last year has worn me down as a mom. I work as a frontline healthcare provider, balancing all work things with being a mom to a toddler who is constantly on the go? It did me in. I became frustrated and anxious; I didn’t want to be around people, and I was on edge all the time. We started going outside, just to have something to do. It was simple at first-nature walks and playing in the drive. We ended up getting a state park pass (highly recommended!), and slowly, nature healed my soul. Being able to step away from all of the noise in our everyday life gives me the room to exhale and soak in the moments with my son and husband. Exploring Lake Michigan while on vacation was just the reset we all needed.
Wear the damn swimsuit. I hate how I look in a bathing suit-all I see in the mirror is everything that is wrong—rolls, lumps, less than perky breasts. I bought a swimsuit without trying it on. I guessed my size and found a pattern that I liked enough to trick myself into putting it on. Honestly, I didn’t want to wear it. I put it on, covered it up with a sarong, and told myself that I could totally get away with not showing the world what was under my coverup. I lasted an hour; my son wanted to play in the water, and he wanted his mama to play with him. I couldn’t tell him no, and the last thing I want is to impose my insecurities on him…or worse, make him feel like Mama doesn’t like playing with him.
He could have cared less what I looked like in the suit. I was just his mama, the keeper of hugs and snacks, playing with him. My husband didn’t notice anything other than my smile as I showed our son how to draw in wet sand. No one gave me a side-eye. I was my biggest critic-I was the only one on the entire Lake Michigan beach that cared what I looked like in the swimsuit. So, Mama, wear the suit.
Wear the suit, take the trip, soak it all in.