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Alright, fellow Mamas… this one’s for you and it’s a little long-winded, but I’ve got a lot of words so forgive me and suck it up, Buttercup.

You know how it feels like you’re always having the “Just Do It” conversation with your kiddos? It goes something a little bit like this:

Mama Bear: “Go clean your room.”
Baby Bear: “No.”
Mama Bear: “Excuse me?”
Baby Bear: “I don’t want to!”
Mama Bear: “Why not?”
Baby Bear: “Because it’s too messy and I don’t know where everything goes and I can’t do it by myself.”
Mama Bear: “I think you’d be surprised at what you might find you’re capable of doing if you’d just put your mind to it.”
Baby Bear: “Won’t you help me?”
Mama Bear: “You made the mess, now go on… clean it up.”
Baby Bear: “But Mooooooom!”
Mama Bear: “Just do it!!!!!”

Or this…

Mama Bear: “Get out there, Kiddo. You’ve got this, you’re going to rock it.”
Baby Bear: “I can’t.”
Mama Bear: “Sure you can. You’ve practiced and practiced and practiced. You are ready. Go on, now.”
Baby Bear: “I’m scared.”
Mama Bear: “I get that, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ll be right here watching and waiting for you.”
Baby Bear: “But what if I stumble or say something wrong or fall flat on my face or my friends all laugh at me and I forget my next move or–”
Mama Bear: “Baby Girl… just DO it.”

God knew what he was doing when he made Mama Bears. They are crafted with this teeny, tiny nerve right at the base of their neck and if their kiddos manage to jump on it just the right way or just the right number of times, that little nerve snaps…releasing the apeshit endorphin that turns those Mama Bears loose. All of sudden the complaints go silent and stuff starts happening. Toys are picked up and rooms are cleaned, new foods are tested and plates are cleared, homework is done, verses are memorized, budding athletes are prepped, practiced, and prepared for what lies ahead, and no one–not even the sweetest little tater tot with the puppy dogs eyes–gets away with skipping out on the job. Mama says “do it” and the task [eventually] gets done.

Mamas speak up and sometimes (okay, a lot of times) their kiddos cry or whine or drag their feet or pitch an absolute fit, and yet–they still listen. And why is that? What makes them listen and take heed?

They know Mama cares.
They know Mama loves them no matter what happens.
And… they know Mama’s always right.

Mama Bears (and Papa Bears) are the encouragers. The disciplinarians. The ones that will always root for their kiddos even when they’ve stolen the ball and dribbled it straight down the pitch into the opposing team’s goal. They’re the ones that have all the answers and if not, know how to Google them. And more than anything else, good Mama (and Papa) Bears are the ones that will forever have their little ones’ best interest(s) in mind.

But who’s watching out for the Mama Bears?

My family took a quick little weekend trip to Savannah, Georgia recently. My daughter was competing in a national gymnastics competition and we figured we’d take our time driving down (it’s a 10 hour trip from Ohio) and back and make a relaxing long weekend of it. My kids (10 and 4) love to swim. Given the choice between sightseeing or visiting well-known attractions, stores, and even a famous ice cream shoppe–they picked swimming at the hotel as their “vacation” activity of choice.  And between the three separate hotel stays on the way down to Savannah, in Savannah, and then on the way back from Savannah, all they wanted to do was swim. Swim, swim, swim and then swim again. Morning and night. Wet suits or dry. Busy pool or not–swim. Swimmety, swimming, swim, swim. Get the idea?

Ok.

Well, this Mama Bear doesn’t swim. It’s not that I don’t know how–I’m actually a pretty decent swimmer, thankyouverymuch. I just don’t do bathing suits. I’m a Mom whose body isn’t the same shape, size, or even color it was pre-kiddos (let alone pre-marriage) in a society where bathing suits cost more but are made of less material. My personal bathing suit boycott seems more like my civic duty in sparing all mankind than it is an aversion to seeing my reflection in the mirror. Can I get an amen? Even a sympathetic one? Right or wrong, my ten years of motherhood have yielded only a handful of swims with my kiddos as the job just naturally fell to their father. He didn’t care, they loved that time with him, skipping the pool often meant quiet time for me and if all of us were happy, no big deal, right?

I don’t know what made me change my mind this time around. Usually I don’t even pack my swimsuit which makes for a quick and simple excuse to avoid the half-naked strut on the pool deck amongst those a third my size. My youngest (A2) saw me throw it in the suitcase as we packed and her eyes turned to saucers! She was shocked I even owned a suit and had yet to process the idea I might actually swim with them. Fast forward to the hotel room where we were getting ready for a morning swim. Given the day of the week and the time of day, I figured the pool would be relatively quiet with not a lot of people staked out to watch me shed my t-shirt and yoga pants and beached-whale my way into the deep end. When I stepped out of the bathroom all dressed up and ready to go, A1 and A2 could hardly believe it and we dashed for the elevator, keyed our way into the pool area and wasted no time jumping into the water. I ducked under, they laughed. I chased them like a shark, they laughed. They jumped in, I caught them. They hollered and yelled and carried on like a couple of seals having the time of their life onshore and I just sat there half-immersed in chlorinated water thinking… “why did I wait so long?”

My kids were happy to be swimming.
They were beyond ecstatic to have me join them.

So I am asking again… who’s watching out for the Mama Bears? Who is going to take their Mama Bear friends’ faces in their hands at the side of the pool and say “I get that it’s scary and that you don’t want to do this by yourself. But you might be surprised at what happens if you’d just recognize that it doesn’t matter what you do or how you look doing it–you’ve just got to DO IT.”

There have been numerous articles and blog posts shared about the importance of moms donning the infamously dreaded bathing suit to swim with their kids. I don’t need to beat the dead horse and repeat what they have already said so eloquently in regards to Mama Bears setting aside their own esteem and being present (and active) alongside their kiddos. But I do want to reiterate that the ones responsible for watching out for society’s Mama Bears are….. Mama Bears themselves.

We need to encourage each other. Laugh with one another. Be kind with our glances, our words and our actions. We need to be sympathetic of the wide range of emotional, mental, and physical struggles others Moms (and women in general) go through. And when a Mama Bear steps outside her comfort zone to act in the best interest of her child, whether that’s on the sidelines of a soccer game, in the pool house, or anywhere else–we need to applaud and encourage. The way society attacks the psyche of those that are struggling should really jump on our nerves and we Mama Bears need to release that very same apeshit endorphin that gets our kiddos to toe the line when they don’t want to and use that God-given authority we have to validate one another–no matter what.

I decided two things while being repeatedly splashed in the pool that day:

  1. Fear and shame are nothing compared to the joy on your kids’ faces when you purposefully step out of your box and get down on their level. Being nervous or anxious or worried about what others think only robs you of that joy and it is your (my) job to take advantage of every opportunity to be an active participant in their life in spite of your (my) own insecurities.
  2. I want to be the kind of person that visibly and vocally encourages others to take those scary steps because every Mom should be able to see and experience that level of joy… even and maybe even especially when they feel unworthy.

Like I said… God knew what he was doing when he made Mama Bears. We not only have the ability to raise our kiddos to be strong, confident (and competent) individuals, but we have the power to inspire, motivate and uplift other moms (and women) around us if for no other reason than because we can. Whether we share the same insecurities or not, each and every one of us has the ability to find common ground with one another and to build on that.

It’s scary.
It’s not easy.
And you might make a complete fool of yourself.

But if you don’t cast off that fear and recognize your place and your purpose in the lives of your kiddos and with those that surround you… you’re realling missing out.

Stop dragging your feet and pitching a fit. You can do this. You’re going to rock it.
Just jump in.
Just be kind.

Just do it.