ST. GEORGE — Next week, I go to London, England. I’m not entirely sure they’ll let me back in the country. After all, I am the mother of those three boys who dove for coins in the fountain across from Buckingham Palace.
Yes, you read that correctly. They dove for coins in the Queen’s fountain. They took off their shirts and plunged their naked torsos deep in the bubbling and tourist-flanked waters in search of pences and pounds.
In the line of sight of several unsmilingly erect and fur-hatted guards. And in shadow of a national treasure.
I later joked the Queen was displeased.
But, after I stomped off down The Mall and beyond St. James Park, it was obvious which mother was really mad. (Although, I still maintain the Queen wouldn’t have been at all happy had she looked out the window and discovered such escapades.)
In my boy’s defense, they were motivated by altruism; they wanted to disperse the coins to eager, hardworking London street performers to “help the economy.”
In my defense, it was my husband’s idea.
Or, at least, he was an accessory to the whole humiliating escapade. That’s what you call it when you hold your sons’ ankles and laugh as they dive for coins in a public fountain and your wife huffs off.
I’ll pause here for your judgment.
The indecency! The unruliness! The louts!
Years later, as I look back on that trip to London, this fountain diving memory is salient.
Towering a bit higher than all our other adventures.
And there were many: The wild swimming in the Serpentine River, the historical torture in the Tower of London, the Crown Jewels, minding the gap on all those tube rides, the candlelight tour of the vintage home Brian Selznick used as inspiration for his book “The Marvels,” mucking through a cemetery in Islington in the rain and discovering the most amazing public bathrooms in the city (hint: They’re in the Supreme Court building).
Why is the fountain diving supreme? I’d like to think that it’s because, with time, I’ve been able to laugh at and find joy in the memory of what once embarrassed me. How happy my boys were in that moment of abandon.
But the truth the memory still embarrasses me a bit.
But maybe it shouldn’t. And before you, my dear reader, get too hot and bothered thinking that I’m going to advocate for accepting unruly and misbehaving children, I’m not.
I still don’t think my boys should have dived topless into that Buckingham Palace fountain.
But my prevailing motivation for thinking that way shouldn’t be based on how others perceived that event. Not the guards. Not the other tourists. Not even the Queen.
It shouldn’t be motivated by shame.
Instead, it should be motivated by teaching them respect. Or some other positive attribute that will serve them well.
Mark Manson, self-help antihero and author of the bestselling “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” says the most important thing to look for in a mate is his/ her ability to see their own flaws and be accountable for them.
Let’s pause here, again. Because that’s important. And true.
But it’s not the only important concept in his article. He also makes the point that one must prioritize the perception of oneself over the perception others have of you.
To do otherwise makes you needy of validation. And not in a good way.
Here’s where you get my big confession: I do sometimes think about the perception other people have of my children and my mothering instead of what I think about myself as a mother. That’s especially true when we travel as a family.
And I don’t think I’m alone.
As mothers, we worry all the time about what other people think of our parenting. More, perhaps, then we worry what we think about ourselves.
What will that parent at the park think of us when our toddler steals their toddler’s toy? What will that stranger think of us when our 9-year-old walks home alone for more than a couple of blocks?
What will the Queen think of me when my boys fountain dive at Buckingham Palace?
So, while for years, I’d been hoping my boys learned their lesson from that London trip about not partially disrobing in public and diving for coins, it turns out it was me who needed the lesson after all.
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