I'm not Brave, I'm a Mom.

Recently my son had a swim-a-thon as a fundraiser for his swim team.  It is his first year on the team, and he has progressed from looking like a floundering drowning victim to, well, a swimmer.  Pride hung thick as the humidity in the pool area when he popped up at the pool edge, out of breath and said, "Mom! I did a 200 free WITHOUT stopping!"  I was proud not only because he did swim the length without stopping, but he knew the distance and the name of the stroke! He has tried some other sports, but hadn't really found his groove yet.  He tried wrestling.  It was like watching Gandhi wrestle.  He did gymnastics for a couple years which did wonders for his lax-loosey goosey joints and core muscles, but he lacks that compact, small body form that excels in gymnastics.  He was ready to try something new and when I suggested swimming he was completely on board.  

Our swim club is non-for-profit, so they do fundraising to cover costs they incur.  In the last email regarding the swim-a-thon the coach mentioned she was looking for parents to swim too.  I hesitated for a nano-second and replied that I was willing to swim.  In my mind, I envisioned a pool full of kids and laid back parents, laughing, having races, and maybe some water games. It would be fun.

Swim-A-Thon day arrived, and when the coach sees me she says, "You are BRAVE!"  In a moment, I felt like I was buying a foreclosure home sight-unseen, or had volunteered to babysit triplets or accepted a double-dog-dare to eat a roller hotdog from the gas station.  I'm sure my expression was one of shock meets apprehension meets regret.  
Probably like this

When it was time for the kids vs. parents event, I looked around and saw a gazillion kids, and four parents suited up: two dads, a svelte, tall mom, and me.   My son gently looked at me, and with all sincerity said, "Take it easy on me, OK?" We jumped in the water to do a 50 free, and though it may have LOOKED like I let my son win, only God knows if I pulled a hamstring, or had a wardrobe malfunction, or got short of breath in those last 10 yards as he shot past me, and I came in last.  And that is all I'll say about that.  

As the day wrapped up the word "Brave" kept echoing in my mind, or maybe it was just water in my ears, but I kept thinking about this perception of wearing a suit, in front of God and everyone as brave.

Brave is choosing a profession that forces one to run into a burning building or possibly take a bullet, daily.  Brave standing up for someone when everyone else is beating them down.  It is finding the strength and courage to finally walk away from an abusive relationship.  Brave is accepting a diagnosis of cancer.  Brave is many things in many forms, but it is not donning a one piece swimsuit at 40 years old to swim with a child.  Frightening, comical, and disturbing maybe, but not brave.

The thing is this day was not about me, it was about the kids. It was about them succeeding, swimming and having fun. I am at the point in my life that any insecurity regarding my cellulite or squishiness can not trump what he will remember from that day. He will remember his mom swimming in a lane next to him, encouraging him when he was struggling, and beating her by an arm length. He will remember his mom was active, secure and supportive. He will remember he had fun. The reality is one of my jobs as his Mom is to model behaviors he will seek in eventual girlfriends, so I try to exemplify traits I respect and admire in women. Just as my daughter looks to her Dad as a prototype for men, my sons are viewing me as their primary example of a woman and a Mom. So I will continue to show them the real me: squishy, flawed, and supportive.  That won't make me brave.  It makes me their Mom.

by Diane