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Smell the Coffee: Moms who play in the sand

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Pity the private person whose daughter is a columnist.

My poor mother. She's so modest and reserved. And here it is, another Mother's Day, and she's probably cringing as she opens her newspaper, wondering which story about her I've now chosen to share.

I suppose it's a bit unfair of me. All those years Mom spent thinking she was simply raising me before learning her offspring was taking notes, that instead of mere parenting, Mom was stocking my larder with material.

Mom is, and always has been, one of the funniest people I've known. She's also one of the quickest to laugh. Life seems to amuse her, and she can find something funny about most any situation. Considering her quirky husband and bizarre kids, her sense of humor is a blessing. Or perhaps a necessity.

I remember noticing, when I was little, that when we'd go to the playground, the other parents would cluster together to talk, but my mom would be going down the slide with her arms in the air. She'd swing on the swings, and didn't just push the merry-go-round, but jumped on and rode. It felt flattering that she seemed to prefer playing with us over gabbing with the other adults.

I knew then that I wanted to be just like her when I was a parent. That's never changed.

When my daughter was little and we went to the beach, I'd see so many of the other parents reading books or watching their children while sitting on beach chairs rather than scooping handfuls of sand or making moats or packing castle walls and then tunneling through. My mom played in the sand. So did I. Sometimes I'd get so absorbed in the castle we were building or the sand person we were making that I wouldn't realize how thoroughly covered in sand I'd become, or that I was sitting in an unladylike position, or that people had gathered to watch our construction.

And I couldn't tell who was having more fun -- my daughter or me.

I love how being a parent entitles you to make a fool of yourself in public for years. It gives you the opportunity to pull a sock over your head in the middle of the mall food court without anyone forcing you into a back-fastening jacket. You get to build forts with fries and turn olives into eyeballs and make mashed potato volcanoes explode gravy lava. You get to be disgusting and tell fart jokes and make funny noises. It can be the most freeing time in a person's life, and so many miss it.

I thought that part of being a parent, where the silliness is appreciated, would be over so fast, but my teenager still seems to be generally amused by my goofiness. I've reeled it back a good bit, as this age range requires, but I like that I can keep her off balance enough that she doesn't quite know what to expect.

You hear so often that being a parent is hard work. It makes me sad when I hear that. I think it's being an adult, being a grown-up, that's hard. Being a parent -- that part is fun. It's rewarding and exhausting and demanding. It can rob you of sleep and turn your hair gray. But being a parent is what makes being a grown-up worthwhile.

Sometimes, when life gets hard and overwhelming in the ways mine was this past year, it's easy to forget the importance of fun. I've been a little too concerned with covering all the bases that I've let myself get distracted. I became consumed with getting through, instead of making the most of the ride.

Mom taught me better than that.

I need to slow down and open my eyes and make the most of this time, since there's someone watching how I handle all this. Granted, Celeste might act like she's not paying the least bit of attention, that what I do and how I do it aren't of interest to her, but if she's the duplicate of me that she so often seems to be, she's watching.

And someday, if I do this right, she might follow my lead.

I'm grateful for all the sacrifices Mom made, although many of them I didn't notice until so much later. I'm grateful she showed me how to be a good mom, taught me that there are more important things than a spotless house or what money can buy, that kids will remember the mom who jumps in the cold swimming pool without dipping a toe over the mom whose hair and makeup looks perfect poolside.

Most of all, though, I'm glad I was her favorite.

I'm sorry, Kurt. But it's time that you knew.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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