… In Which I Try To Sun Myself In The Backyard While My Children Play

The news has been devastating lately, and this weekend I needed an escape. Since I still don’t feel comfortable going anywhere while Coronavirus is lurking, my own backyard “escape” was the best I could do. Bad idea … bad, bad idea.

With my beach towel, glitter pool float (makeshift pool chair) and sunscreen in hand, I set out for the backyard. “I have good news, boys!,” I declared. “Go ahead and fill up both pools, get out all of the sprinkler toys, and let’s have a little water fun in the backyard! Mommy’s going to get some sun, and y’all just have a good time. There’s only one rule: don’t get Mommy wet.” I felt very confident that I was a super-fun mom until my five-year-old, who at times can be more mature than I am, said, “That’s a terrible idea, Mom. Someone always gets sprayed in the eyes with the hose. Everyone gets mud in the house, and we’ll all have to take baths.” “Oh phooey,” I thought. You see, I describe my parenting style as “I live and breathe for you. You’re all I think about. I would die for you in a heartbeat. Now get away from me.” I thought water fun would occupy them for hours and leave me basking in the glory of the sun. I was wrong.

Once I convinced everyone that my plan was pure genius, I poured myself a big glass of Sauvignon Blanc and headed outside. I found the only unoccupied spot approximately one foot away from where my golden retriever likes to do her business. The Beverly Hills Hotel this was not. However, with my ‘60s playlist and the smell of suntan lotion, I felt like something right out of “The Graduate,” a tanned sun goddess who had just returned from the tiki bar.

Now, the sun isn’t usually my thing. I’m not what you would call a “beach person,” and I have a history of lasting approximately 10 minutes in the heat before waving the white flag. I’ve often wondered what people actually do at the pool or beach all day long. It’s a slap in the face of the modern advancement called air conditioning, if you ask me. But with the retro tunes and the drink in my hand, I was beginning to understand the strange attraction people have to the sun. “Maybe it’s time to get out some baby oil,” I thought to myself. “Who cares if I end up looking like a fried pickle? Life’s too short!” Don’t worry, I came to my senses and realized life would be a lot shorter if I marinated myself in baby oil.

My youngest came over to me out of concern. “Take off your top,” he said (He’s three). “What!?,” I said. “Take off your top, or it will get wet,” he insisted. I talked him down, but I worry about him in college with a line like that. About that time, I see something flying through the air towards me; it’s a gift from my oldest son, a large black beetle wrapped in dirty underwear. I honestly didn’t want to know where either came from, so I politely declined the gentleman’s gift.

While dealing with the tighty-whities beetle, I hadn’t noticed that my youngest had turned my pool float into a wave pool. Apparently he had found delight in shaking the float over and over as to watch my fat jiggle. Awesome. I no longer felt like a sun goddess, which was good because about that time I had to play defense. I saw a soccer ball fly right past my head just in time to hear my middle son yell, “I’m the king of wet balls!” I didn’t even have the chance to giggle before I looked over to see my youngest using our concrete patio as a urinal. “Nooooooooooo…,” I yelled with fear and disbelief in my eyes.

As I was explaining to my three-year-old why we don’t relieve ourselves on the patio where we like to eat, my middle son noticed ants on the fence behind me and waged a full-on war. It wasn’t bad enough that he was ending them with the hose’s brutal jet function, but he was yelling insults while doing it. “Nobody cares about you” and “You were NOT invited to the party” were two of my personal favorites.

I tried to salvage my day in the sun, and I headed back over to my pool float. My oldest ran past me and cut me off, jumping onto the float. At that moment, my middle son’s attention shifted from ants to brothers and he yelled, “Hey dump truck! Don’t steal a lady’s comfortable spot!” I decided right then that if nothing else came from that day, that I was still winning because of my son’s chivalrous gesture. Now we’ll work on his vocabulary.

I’ve learned my lesson, and I won’t be sunning in the backyard anytime soon. The next time I need an escape, I’m going to an adults-only pool. From that day I took away nothing but a headache and a boy-shaped tan line on each leg. My tan lines don’t exactly scream desirable bathing beauty, but they do mean I’m loved. I’ll take that.

What is a “Beauty-Filled” Life?

Lately I’ve had a few people ask, “Meghan, why is your blog named ‘The Beauty-Filled Life’ when you write mainly about boys and dirt and chaos?”

Exactly.

Allow me to explain. Sure, I could have named my blog “Snips and Snails” or “Bless This Mess,” perhaps “Fart Frat” would have been well received … but, see, that doesn’t tell the whole story. “The Beauty-Filled Life” does.

Years ago I read something by one of my favorite authors and thought leaders, Glennon Doyle, and it stuck with me. She said:

Beautiful means ‘full of beauty.’ Beautiful is not about the appearance of your outsides — beautiful is about what you’re made of. Beautiful women are women who spend time discovering what they love — what sings to them — what their idea of beauty on this Earth is. Then they make time each day to fill themselves up with that beauty. They know themselves well enough to know what they love, and they love themselves enough to fill up with a little of their particular kind of beauty each day.

My sons and their antics fill me up. They are my well from which I draw beauty. I don’t want a beautiful life; I want a beauty-filled life. A beauty-filled life has absolutely nothing to do with pretty, organized, controlled, orderly perfection. It’s the guts, the real soil of the human experience. Beautiful things fade, but beauty-filled moments last forever.

A floor covered in laundry, changing wet sheets, potty training, tantrums, messy buns and baggy eyes are not “beautiful” as we have come to know beauty, but these experiences and the love driving them are filled with beauty. A beauty-filled life is one that is rich with authentic beauty, the kind that is a finely woven tapestry of pain and triumph, anger and redemption, dirt and cleansing, growth and forgiveness and unconditional love.

No one except advertising agencies ever said our lives are supposed to beautiful in the sense of pleasing to the eye. They sell that our homes are supposed to be sparkling clean, our bodies fit, tan, and toned, and our little ones well behaved. Between magazines and our newsfeeds, our minds are inundated with images of perfectly styled homes with clean, bright kitchens and minimalist playrooms donning only wooden toys. It’s what we love seeing, otherwise it wouldn’t be everywhere, but it also makes us feel bad.

I used to work for those magazines. During photo shoots, we would enter gorgeous —albeit lived in — homes and spend hours cleaning up, moving furniture and styling shots. We worked hard to remove all the true life from the shots only to turn around and perfectly style an “ideal” life. A glass of orange juice on a veranda next to a vase of flowers and a sun-dappled croissant, a perfect half-moon of wooden trains laying next to a “Curious George” anthology in an otherwise untouched playroom, families enjoying a backyard picnic though they’ve never done that before.

I was fooled by these images for a long time. I still have to remind myself that they are not the truth. I look at my messy home with chipped paint on the walls, and I’m embarrassed that we’re not perfect. How could we possibly have company over when we don’t have an open concept home, our laundry baskets have actual clothes in them, our toys are plastic, and our couch is from Ikea! (These thoughts are even more ridiculous when typed). But then the little voice inside of me that has sprouted thanks to maturity and experience reminds me that perfection is not the end game. What if we saw real homes filled with the beauty of real life? Would we then focus less on curating Insta-worthy shots and more on filling our own rooms with joy and laughter?

I’m tired of “bettering myself” and my life. I’m weary from filling out mindfulness journals, reading self-help books and trying new diets. I’m nostalgic for the levity of childhood. My boys bring me back to that place. They make me roar with laughter, and I love watching them really enjoy their lives with wild abandon. They look at me with love in their eyes, and it has nothing to do with whether or not the laundry is done, where we bought our furniture, or the size of my pants. They just love me. They make me feel beauty-filled.

One day someone is going to tear down the houses we’ve so proudly built, paint over our furniture and laugh at our clothing choices. It just doesn’t matter. “Pretty” doesn’t last … I’m living for a beauty-filled life. And, even if I one day get to travel the whole stunning world, I hope the view from inside this humble home is the one I remember well into my old age. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.