Over the years, I've developed a mental list of things I’m intensely committed to avoiding.

I don’t dance unless it’s with my kids, or unless you promise me Outkast and wine.

I don’t eat fast food chicken, unless it's a McNugget seasoned with playground sand and half-eaten by a 3-year-old.

I don't leave the house after 9 p.m. It doesn’t matter if you're my fun, millennial younger sister, or Jon Hamm, a Kardashian. Once the sun is down and Dateline is on, I'm staying put.

And I don’t wear shorts in public.

While most of my avoidances stem from age and experience, the shorts thing is mostly due to insecurity. My legs are not my favorite thing. They aren't toned or tan; they're scarred by an ACL repair and ancient mosquito bites, and polka-dotted with bruises that broadcast my general clumsiness. When I was pregnant with Emilia, spider veins accumulated around my ankles, building webs that have only gotten more permanent and complex with each new baby.

During the winter, this is pretty much a non-issue. I can get by in jeans or tights. And during the summer, I've grown accustomed to wearing maxi dresses and midi skirts. And more jeans, because really, denim knows no season. All in all, I get by.

Except now I have kids who like to run and explore, who love to jump in puddles, zoom around playgrounds, crawl through knee-high foliage and build small-scale carnival rides in our backyard, like Emilia’s Water Balloon Slide (patent pending).

Except now it’s really hot outside, and the breezy practicality of shorts is becoming more and more appealing.

A few weeks ago, as we planned and packed for our upcoming trip to Minnesota, where the first weekend would be spent at Matt’s dad’s beautifully rustic lakeside cabin, I decided to swallow my pride, confront my body-conscious fears and spring for shorts. So I bought one new pair and dug out another — last worn in 2010 — from the dark recesses of a dresser drawer.

I wore them to wade in cold lake water. To wrestle with my girls before bedtime. To bounce Phoebe on my knees and swoop her away from her latest path of destruction. When we made our way to Matt’s mom and stepdad’s house in Bloomington, I wore them to walk along shaded, humid trails and splash in Nine Mile Creek with Emilia and Grace.

When we got home and I scrolled through the pictures Matt had uploaded onto our desktop, my first reaction was to wince at my legs. To scold myself for not wearing something more flattering, or for not backing out of the picture entirely. But then my focus shifted to the wide smiles on the girls’ faces.

They were happy to be splashing, happy to be on an adventure, happy to have me there. They were happy that I’d said yes to their pleas for me to join them. They didn’t care at all about what I was wearing, in the best way possible.

My self-consciousness suddenly seemed incredibly petty. Obviously, wearing shorts wasn’t a massive act of bravery, but it was a decision to step outside of myself and forgo my hangups in order to just be. To see myself the way my kids see me and live in the moment.

Just my husband, my girls and me — pasty legs and all — glistening in the Minnesota sun.


Catherine Kraemer writes twice a month for Momaha.com. She and her husband, Matt, are the parents of three young girls – Emilia, 5, Grace, 3 and newborn Phoebe. Originally from St. Louis, Catherine lives in Omaha and works at a local advertising agency.

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