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Learning to Love the Beach

I love the beach. I mean, I LOVE the beach. It's my happy place, it's where I feel recharged, it's where I go in my head to escape where I am. (For example, when I was lying on a surgery table after 16 hours of labor, body shuddering and constantly dry-heaving, worried as heck about my baby who was not coming out, I turned to my husband and said, "I'm going to the beach." And I did. And then my little girl was born!)

I love everything about the beach. The endless expanse of ocean, the rhythmic crashing of the waves, the hot sun blazing down, the soft sand shifting beneath me. I enjoy lying down reading a book while I bake, sitting up under an umbrella watching the kids and people around me, standing in the surf while the waves come and go, and walking out into the water to dive through the waves just as they crest. I love it all.

I am a Beach Girl.

My kids, however, I'm not so sure about... yet. I'm pretty confident that I can turn them into Beach Kids, but it turns out it's not an instant thing. Good thing my parent now have a beach house less than 3 hours away, and good thing we are going to be a Family That Travels! Because I am working on it as much as I can.

Not last weekend, but the two weekends before that, I took the kids to my parents' beach house. The first weekend we went, I drove myself and the kids down to the beach house, where my parents and my brother's family were already vacationing. The second weekend, I went with my mom, my kids and my 5-year-old niece. Both times were good times, with fun dynamics. I mean, how cool is it to go on vacations with cousins who are close to you in age? I got to do that every summer at my grandparent's house in Cape Cod with my two cousins from my mom's side. It was always such a great experience. And now I can pass that on to my kids as well.

But back to the issue at hand. The kids and the beach.

We went last year, but the Pookie was too little to really have an opinion. He enjoyed digging in the sand and tried to eat handfuls of sand. The Pumpkin had been in previous years, and she was excited about it. But then we had a little incident where she got swept off her feet by a wave. Even though I immediately had her up and on her feet, it scared her and gave her a healthy respect for the ocean.

I don't know if she remembered that incident on some level of her consciousness or if she is just at an age where things are scarier than they were before. But either way, she was very scared of the water and waves this year. She clung to my hand or ran from the water the whole time we were at the beach that first weekend. She sat just at the edge of where the waves could reach and built a wall (out of sand, which didn't really last as long as she had hoped). I didn't want her to feel and think that she was "scared" of the water, so I gave her the words, "I'm a little nervous about the water" which was super cute to hear her say to other people.

At first, my son seemed excited about the water. He enjoyed getting his feet wet and feeling the sand. I sat him down with his sister to play in the wet sand and build the wall together. These kids of mine spend their entire outdoor playtime at school in the sandbox, so I knew they would love to sit and dig in the sand. And they were really enjoying themselves.

Then a big wave came all the way up to where they were sitting. I had my back to the water, so I didn't realize it and didn't give the kids a warning. It surged over the Pookie unexpectedly. It surprised him and was uncomfortable for his to suddenly have sand and cool water all over his legs, while he was simply sitting in the sand playing. Meanwhile, his sister jumped up, shrieking, and ran back a bit higher in the sand.

I laughed and said "whooa," and he was starting to settle down. But then it happened again. And that was it for him. He was UPSET! I picked him up and helped him back to our umbrella and chairs way back on the beach. He did NOT want to be by the water. He insisted, "No wawa! No wawa!" He didn't even want ME by the water. For the rest of the day.

We hung out back on the beach, out of view of the surf. My parents and brother watched and played with my daughter and her cousins. Then my brother, dad and the cousins went back to the beach house, while my mom and I stayed with my kids.

It was at that point, I was no longer willing to sit so far away from the water (practically out in the dunes!) and out of view of my daughter playing. I also wanted to help my boy get used to the being around the ocean, since my plan is to go to the beach house as much as possible (see above about me being a Beach Girl).

I moved my chair, the toys, our other stuff and my self down to where my mom and daughter were, encouraging my son the whole time to come. He came most of the way, then flipped out about him and me being closer to the water. My mom went back with him to where our stuff had been, and I sat down with my daughter to build a wall.

The tide had gone out a bit, and the beach was less crowded. I could see the Pookie, and he was upset about me being closer to the water, but he was more unhappy being away from me and having no toys back where our stuff had been. He soon came with my mom back to where the Pumpkin and I were playing.

He started getting upset again, but I quickly moved into distraction mode, as well as adamantly telling him I wasn't moving and that the water was not where we were. Plus, I got his sister to start playing with him.

Before I knew it, we were all happy. I had a great view of the ocean, the kids were playing in the sand, and my mom was able to sit down and relax. In one day, we'd come a long way. And even both kids even dipped their feet in the water right before we left, as the four of us all held hands, standing in the surf. It was lovely.

The next morning at the beach went more smoothly. I knew to set up closer to the water from the get-go, I made sure both kids were comfortable with their location (the Pookie started getting upset, but he was quickly mollified). We had a lovely time.

Plus, did I mention the airplanes? The Pookie LOVES airplanes (and any vehicle, or go-go), and he pointed out every. single. one that flew over the beach with advertisements. To everyone around. It was really cute. And we saw boats and seagulls and even dolphins! Both kids loved seeing those things and pointing them out. You know, like Beach Kids do.

The next weekend went even better! From the first hour at the beach, they were playing in the surf with their cousin. They stood their holding my and my mom's hands. Then they wanted to stand on their own more and more.

My daughter ran up and down the slope to the beach, chasing and running from the waves in a fun game. She stood "strong" in the water with her cousin, pretending their feet were on surf boards. My mom lifted them (one at a time) to jump over the edges of the waves as the water came up the beach. She jumped in the water and stood still so her feet would get covered in sand, depending on her mood and current game.

My son wanted to do what the girls were doing. He played and jumped and stood still and wanted me to let go of his hand before long (which was okay for little bits of time, but the waves and riptides at this beach are unpredictable, so I mostly held on to him or at least stood right next to him). At one point, he even said, "mo wawa!" A big change from the previous weekend! So I picked him up and carried him till I was waist deep in the water, with waves surging up higher. I even had to sheild his head with my body when one wave crashed right on our heads! That was as I was just walking us back out of the water. He started to look upset about that one, but I think he didn't because he saw I was laughing and having so much fun!

They are well on their way to becoming Beach Kids now! I feel like I got them both over the initial humps we encountered. I do want them to understand and be slightly wary of the power of the ocean. It's important to know what riptides can do, and why it's important to stay with an adult. We really did have a few scary-ish moments when a strong riptide came out of a seemingly small wave and start to pull the kids with it. They are still small, and the ocean is strong and vast. Luckily, my mom and I and the other adults in my family know and understand what needs to be done to keep them safe, without ruining the enjoyment of the beach.

Because, you know, we're a Beach Family!


mom2boy said…
What beautiful memories you are creating! I love the beach, too. It was one of those magical places as a child and the only place we ever spent family vacations with grandparents and aunts and uncles. It's really wonderful that you are working to create such a special place for your family.
Cloud said…
My husband and I are both beach people. Pumpkin is working her way up to it- she loves the beach, but is less sure about the ocean water. In her defense, it is quite cold here on the west coast, and she is rail thin, so no insulation. Petunia seems to love both beach and water- we'll see if that lasts.

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