Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Day At the Beach

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  I packed up the four kids and a dinosaur patterned duvet cover filled with various accoutrement and headed to the beach.  This was only our second time at the beach, living as we do in landlocked state.  Before now, I just didn’t feel comfortable attempting this feat.  As it turns out, I had nothing to fear.  These children are mine, after all, and Lake Michigan is the lake I’ve played in and loved since I was a small girl.  When we went for the first time the lake was as smooth as it ever gets, and novelty created a sense of caution.  Yesterday, though, they were in their minds old pros.  The water was pretty big, though, for the elementary and preschool crowd, with waves at about three feet.  At first I was as jumpy as a water strider in a dish of rubbing alcohol, but after a little while I calmed down.  Once I did, I was able to notice, and revel, the different ways my kids enjoyed the one of my favorite places.
My chubby little blonde headed baby, who we generally call CatDaddy thanks to a slip of the tongue once by his older brother, was utterly unafraid of the waves.  I guess this is unsurprising as he is the youngest of four very rambunctious little monkeys and learned long ago to stand his ground.  As the waves would come crashing in he would roar his best dinosaur roar and dive head first into them.  They were way over his head and far more than he could manage, but he was so sure that he could do it.  Given the slightest opportunity he would dive in, paddle for a bit, and get knocked under.  He would be pulled to the surface sputtering but no less determined to do it again.  My preschooler, Bean, fared much better.  He would wade out to where the water was calmer, then paddle gamely along, playing with the splash ball I had brought.  His only problem was that he would occasionally follow either the ball or his older brother out beyond where he was comfortable.  He wasn’t in danger; he wasn’t afraid, he would just paddle calmly for the few seconds it took me to sprint over and tow him to calmer, shallower seas.  Then there was Diesel.  As I’ve mentioned before, D has some cognitive issues, mainly revolving around sensory integration and communication.  And, well, there’s really no other way to put it, the water healed him.  He would put on some goggles and float face down in the waves, diving down deep and then resurfacing.  I could watch the muscles in his body relax, and soon he was playing – appropriately! – with other children, dancing around, and speaking in complete sentences!  This has lasted.  He is using his words to say how he feels, is more engaged with others.  It is phenomenal.  Then there was my Belly Girl.  My Pearl.  Who informed me long before we ever got to the beach that she would be staying in the sand.  I know my daughter well enough to know what that means.  That means “the water scares me and so I’m going to stay on the sand and I want everyone else to as well so that I don’t have to move out of my comfort zone.”  I understand.  I empathize.  And also, it ain’t gonna happen.  I played with her in the sand for about a half hour.  Then I gave her a big hug, kissed the top of her head, and told her that the baby wanted to go into the water (a true statement) and that I had to go with him (also a true statement) and off we went.  Sure enough, after about another half of an hour had passed, I felt a hand on my leg.  My girl had come out to play.  Soon, she had donned some goggles and was splashing and diving like a little dolphin.  “Mommy,” she yelled at one point, “now I have two fav’rite parts of the beach.”  I grinned.  I thought she might. 
Once I had noticed that, I was able to think about the way I was caring for each of them.  With Cat, I was engaged in a full-body wrestling match; letting him go every now and then, but most often keeping a hand on him to keep him from hurting himself.  Often I was having to actively pull him back.   With Bean I had to be cautious, keeping a watchful eye in case he strayed too far, but mostly just letting him explore.  With my Pearl my job was to gently but firmly pull her out of her comfort zone and help her discover a side of herself she did not yet know existed.  And with D my job was to just sit back, try not to hover and “cramp his style” and let him soar. 

Wow.  How amazing.  How often do we get the joy of getting to fulfill all four stages of parenting at the same time?  I loved it.  I’ve said often that parenting is hard because we are constantly functioning on the micro level to hopefully see results on the macro.  I’m going to sit here until my baby asks to be excused from the table in hopes that he will learn manners and obedience so that he will be a gentle, well-mannered man who can discern when to question authority and when to obey.  No wonder we are exhausted.  But, for a moment, all of parenting was shrunk into this snapshot.  I felt it all – the pain, the joy, the pride, the fear.  I could see the stages all at once.  Then, as I often do when I get by big water, I got to thinking of God and how He must feel this way about me.  After all, he can SEE all the stages of me all at once.  He knows where I have been and where I will be.   I  remember all of the times I find myself pulling, straining, trying to throw myself under water as I feel Him saying “you’re not ready yet.  You’re almost there, but not quite.”  Meanwhile I pant and thrash and fight yelling, “yes I am!”  One of my friends once cautioned me about “praying for a King,” and boy was he right. Then, I thought about all of the times I’ve been put in positions I don’t feel like I can possibly handle, let alone enjoy, only to look back with wonder after I’d made it through.  Only then could I see how much of a giant the situations helped me to become – so much larger and more than I ever thought I could be.  There are the times I am wandering around, exploring, learning, and feel just the gentle touch of His guiding hand.  Finally, there are times where I know He just sits back and watches me soar. He watches the work He has put into me come into fruition as everything falls into place and I become what I was created to be. 

The old saying goes, "Sometimes life is a day at the beach."  Yes.  And sometimes, a day at the beach is life.  

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