Mothering at the Beach

Beach 2014

Mothering at the beach presents some fun, some challenge.

Today I floated sideways on a raft with my youngest son, kicking against the current until a wave came and then flipping us back toward the beach to float with any wave that came out way.

Today I watched as our oldest son got too cocky out in the water with an older cousin and found himself on his boogie board out past where he could touch. Thankfully he was right near my mother who helped him until my husband made it out and pulled him back in to shore—for safety, for a serious talk about how we have rules about how far they’re allowed to go out for a reason, for a time out in his beach chair.

Yesterday I watched as my husband and father pulled the boys by on their boogie boards, sending them tumbling and laughing into the surf.

Yesterday I watched as my oldest son showed no fear, diving into the waves over and over and over again. I marveled at how he has changed since this time last year.

Today I carried six chairs down to the beach before our normal beach time so that I could ensure our entire multi-generational vacationing family could have the primo spot of the day.

Today I slipped into a new bikini, one I purchased yesterday. I pulled at the bottoms looking at my reflection in the mirror. I almost second guessed myself until I paused to feel how comfortable the suit felt on my body. I looked briefly at my stretch marks, extra white against the slight pink from the sun exposure the previous day. I smiled; I earned those marks.

Today I watched as my sons played with a cousin the same age as their sister; my heart broke as I thought about what it would look like if things had been different.

Today I watched as my sister-in-law stood in the waves, her eleven month old falling asleep in her arms. I remembered that phase of parenting. I felt nostalgic for a moment, asking my husband if he missed that phase—the water slapping, sand eating, happy giggling phase of the newness of the beach. Then we laughed the laugh of parents sitting in their chairs while their children figured out how to float on their 1980’s style raft.

Today I watched as two tired afternoon boys argued over the big shovel, one swinging the shovel at the other. I simply pointed at the one who swung the shovel and pointed at the chair—the same chair used earlier for time out. Then we packed up all of the things—the toys, the chairs I carried by myself earlier, the cooler, the towels, the everything of beaching with children—and walked back to the beach house.

We showered the children, clothed them in clean, dry clothes, and set them down with The Lego Movie so they could relax away from the sun for just a little while. I showered the excess sun block, salt, and sand from my body, dressed myself in clean dry clothes, and settled down with a book for a little while. Later, we had dinner, we had snacks, and then bed time rolled around. As I tucked them in, one said to me, “Today was the best day ever.”

And the other one said, “Yes, thank you, mommy.”

And somewhere between the time out and the floating, the bad and the good, the exhausted and sand covered and delicious food and beautiful beach breeze, I came into my own. Somewhere on a beach in North Carolina, I felt okay with who I am, right now, as a mother.

 

 

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What I Did on My Beach Vacation

I napped. I never nap unless I reach a point of absolute and utter exhaustion. I apparently can also nap if I reach a point of absolute and total relaxation, aided by lots of sunshine, cool sheets, and the company of a book from a local independent bookstore found in the “Southern Fiction” section. I woke up disoriented and oh-so-happy.

I ran. I ran fast — hitting a record for one of my fastest mile times ever. I ran slow — dragging along a teenage cousin who said she’d slow down for me because I’m old. I ran with my 50-year-old uncle who pushed it into race mode as we neared the end of our run. I ran in raindrops. I ran in relentless morning sun. I ran after dinner on the first night, after a 10.5 hour drive. I ran early in the morning to beat the heat and the humidity. I ran until I got a blister — and then didn’t run the last two days. I missed running on those last two days — but I ran the evening we got home after a 10.5 hour drive.

I ate. And I ate. And I ate. I don’t go on vacation to diet. Well, I don’t diet anyway. But I definitely indulge on vacation. I haven’t consumed that many snacks — chips and crackers and dips and Popsicles and ice creams and yes, even fruits — in ages. I ate delicious steaks and hamburgers. I maybe slightly gorged myself on seafood. I ate bagels and bananas for breakfast. I texted my uncle to bring back a candy bar one day; I don’t even like many candy bars. (He chose Mr. Goodbar because peanuts.)

I drank. Ahem.

I slept. I slept the deep sleep of a wife and a mother and an everything to everyone who… didn’t have to be everything to everyone. I dreamed strange dreams. My sleep was not interrupted by little feet and stage whispered voices of “MOM” in my face as they slept the sleep of little boys worn out by waves. My sleep was interrupted by a wicked storm that caused both my husband and I to check our radars on our iPhones in the dark of the night, wind whipping and whistling and whirring around the beach house. But oh, I slept. On one of the mornings I decided not to run because of my toe, I woke up — and went back to sleep. I forgot what being caught up on sleep feels like, how it makes everything a little less edgy.

I played. I played frisbee and ball. I made “quicksand” for LittleBrother. I stood in the waves so BigBrother could boogie board until he couldn’t boogie board any more. I got on the boogie board; I rode those waves. I made wet sand dripping castles, as they’re my favorite; I don’t need no stinkin’ bucket. I buried my feet and unburied my feet and buried feet and legs and arms and butts of kids and other individuals. I looked for shells. I stepped on shells. I stepped on a little cactus, pulling it out of the ground and waving it around in the air with the heel of my foot. I chased little boys. I smacked my husband’s butt. I watched the dolphins. I jumped waves and got crushed by two. I made my cousin snap pictures of my family, and fell in love with the goofy one over the “perfect” one. I bought a Wonder Woman monokini. And wore it.

I laughed and talked. I relaxed and gave thanks for all that I have — for all that stresses me out, for all that makes me doubt who I am or what I’m doing, for all that makes me who I am on a daily basis, for the good and the bad and the stuff somewhere in the middle. I sat on the beach with my feet in the sand, breathing a sigh of contented, restful relief. I breathed in the sweet salt air and exhaled the stuff and weight of the everyday. I allowed myself some time and space, and I am all the better for it.

Breathing at the Beach