Riding the Waves

My children aren’t regular beach goers. We live in the middle of the United States and it is mostly cold anyway. Last year’s family vacation was the first time they had ever seen the ocean and they loved it. As we were preparing for our trip, Littles unequivocally stated that she was only going to the beach for the sand and would not be going in the water. (Trust me there was no discussion of shark attacks to induce the comment. If there had been, she would have refused to go on vacation.) Thinking back to last year she didn’t really like the water and spent most of her time in the sand — playing, building, creating.

The thing about last year was that it wasn’t great weather. We pulled in as Tropical Storm Bertha pulled out. The ocean was raging with arching and crashing waves. The sun rarely shined, which was fine for a pasty white family. We had some very windy days on the beach during our last stay. Bottom line: one needed to watch very carefully.

This year could not have been more different. The sun shined. The water was calm. Sometimes we wished for more of a breeze. It was beautiful. Perhaps the difference induced Littles to abandon her unambiguous pronouncement after fifteen minutes and wade into the water. She is a whole year older and more brave. The only way to describe her week at the beach was frolicking. All locomotion was done in a running dance movement. I often sat in my chair and wondered whether she had music going through her head and if so, what was it, because I could use some of it too.

While Littles never made it past the break of the waves, Bigs’ bravery came early with a desire to go past the breaks as deep as he could (in a life jacket.) He spent hours out beyond the point where the waves broke and formed white caps. Like Littles, I’m not a big fan of the salt water slapping me in the face, but took my turn at taking Bigs out in his life jacket. Shortly after getting out the first time, I realized a pool noodle would enhance the experience.

Getting out past the point where the waves crashed down is a bit of work. In the midst of the journey it seems you are slapped in the face with water as the sand below you shifts out and you sink in deeper cementing your feet in place. We tried to make it as easy as possible trying to dive into them, turning sideways, just about anything that would allow forward progress during the crash of water. None of it worked. We quickly found that letting the strength of the wave move past you as you were still, but not stiff was the best strategy.

After making it through the physically demanding part, we got to a place where we could just float. The waves continued to roll in, but we gently bobbed on top of them. I spent a great deal of energy bracing myself for a mouth full of water or stinging eyes, while Bigs happily giggled and floated weightless. The big ripples of water looked overwhelming as they rolled toward  us, but we gently moved past each other without incident… every single time.

As we drifted with the tide, I got to thinking about life and how I live so much of it in the break of the waves. I realized that I usually have a choice and don’t have to be stuck in the slipping sand as the white caps topple me. I can choose to stay out of the water (or maybe just twinkle my toes) or to go deep. The thing about going deep is that you relinquish a bit of control in that you don’t touch the bottom. Disconnecting from the stable ocean bottom is what allows effective bobbing.

Sometimes I need to choose to be like Littles and not allow myself to get swept up in the surf. I can be in the audience instead of on the stage. I can observe, but not absorb. (Thanks, Mom!) I don’t have to wade into every argument, commitment, request, or tussle. I can say no. ::gasp::

Sometimes I need to choose to be like Bigs and move past the difficulty, relinquish a bit of control, roll with the waves of life, and not fight the tide. I can learn from his innocence that anticipation can steal the joy.

As we combed the beach Bigs found the perfect shell and handed it to me. “Mommy, I think you should take this one to work, so you can remember the beach.” It sits by my monitor as a reminder of the sun, sand, and surf; my people; and that life is filled with choices and I don’t have to fight the crashing waves all the time.


I do solemnly swear that I will finish the series on thriving mothers. We have three to go and they are awesome, but I’m choosing not to feel guilty… maybe a tinge of regret that I didn’t get them done in advance of vacation so they could be scheduled out. Nevertheless, they aren’t forgotten.

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