We survived camping!! And 18 hours in the car!!! And then a 24-hour turnaround that involved 12+ loads of laundry so that five out of our seven could head off to their next adventure!
So about that river. There it is above, sparkling and cold, home to friendly snakes and little fishies, with the magical power to turn our kiddos into explorers, pirates, and naturalists. And it also has the power to let us parents drift lazily down it in inner tubes, letting the inner grownup in us unkink just enough to sink into that delicious state of bliss that can only happen when you have a cold beverage in your hand, your toes are in cold water, the sun is warm on your skin, and there are 16 other adults watching out for your little ones so you can truly relax.
Oh delicious moments!
The only trouble with the river is that the bottom of it is stony. Sharp and poky, meanly so. Which is why, of course, I made my kids take river shoes, even though they think I’m the meanest mom in the world for it. Because I have been here before, you see, and I know just how poky it is. I told them they didn’t have to WEAR the river shoes, but they had to TAKE them.
My husband Nick got river shoes, too, but somehow– me– well– I opted for– how shall I say…. not quite river shoes.
I mean they were river shoes, SORT OF. Sort of like how that one time decades ago in Chicago I went out to buy winter galoshes and came home with an exquisite pair of suede heels. Which I then referred to as my galoshes and still own, by the way.
But my river shoes were sleek, aerodynamic, lean mean feats of engineering.
Ok, so actually they were just a pair of $3 rubber flip-flops from Joe Fresh.
Why, friends. Why.
Oh sugarpie, I don’t know why. Because sometimes I am wise and deep and savvy, and sometimes I am an utter dolt.
It’s not like I didn’t prepare thoroughly for this trip. I had every kind of snack on the planet. I had benadryl and an epipen and all-the-sporins and 42 kinds of bandaids. I am even now the proud owner of an actual camp stove and a foldy thing to put it on. I’m basically a fearless explorer, folks.
But river shoes– I don’t know– they’re so clunky, and I would only wear them for these three days once a year, and they’re not PRETTY, and– and– well. These flip-flops would work just fine, wouldn’t they????
(Spoiler alert: not so fine.)
Every time I went into the water, I did a staggering lurchy dance punctuated by loud “Ow! Ow! OWWWWW”s and wincing.
Sometimes I just pretended it was all FINE and wore them INTO the water, in spite of their tendency to make an escape into the great unknown.
This led to many charming scenes, like the one in which my friend Molly and I were pushing our inner tube back to shore after a blissful float and I was having such a hard time pulling my flip-flops through the water that she said, “Do you need me to just pull you in it?!?!?!”
And I said, “No way, I’m tougher than I look.”
And at that exact moment my flip-flop flew off my foot and I squealed, “Oh no! My SHOE!”
And then she laughed at me for about 30 minutes.
By the end, my feet were bruised and sore, and I didn’t take as many floats down the river as I would have otherwise.
And so I made a solemn vow, to myself and now to you, that next time we go camping (which is neverneverneverokaymaybenextyear), I WILL BRING STURDY RIVER SHOES SO HELP ME WATER SPRITES.
But as much as I feel sheepish about my lack of river shoes, I am telling you this story because the truth is that I see women do this ALL THE TIME.
They outfit everyone around them.
They take care of their kids, partner, clients, neighbors, extended family, and even strangers.
They spend time, energy, and money to make sure that the people around them have strong, sturdy support and the exact things they need. They will comb the city for the exact textbook for their kid. They will pay astronomical sums for the right lessons, equipment, entry fees, and coaches. They will send their beloved on trips, retreats, and business trips with gear that costs more than their car. They will move heaven and earth for the committee, the client, the meeting, the cause.
While they wear $3 flip-flops.
And then when they step out into a daring mini-adventure, they wonder why they lurch.
They berate themselves for staggering.
They nurse bruised aching parts of themselves after an exhausting day.
They shy away from the bigger leaps, the ones that require more fortitude and splashing.
They think to themselves, Maybe I’m just not cut out for this, instead of thinking, HEY, MAYBE I NEED BETTER EQUIPMENT SO I CAN PLAY AT MY LEVEL.
Dearhearts. Let’s stop doing this to ourselves.
So for me, and for our daughters, and for the love of the river goddess, right now, ask yourself:
Where in your life do you need badass river shoes?
Where in your life are you denying yourself the support, the buffer, the protection, or the tools to do the very things you most want to do?
I will promise you, and I want you to promise me, that from now on, we will BUY OURSELVES THE DAMN RIVER SHOES.
Because we are made for big adventures. You and me. All of us. I just know it.