We bundled up — warm coats, hat & mittens, and Froggy boots, of course. We were headed to the beach, and I knew that if there was a tide pool to be found, he’d be the one to find it. Turns out, what got him soaked up to his knees was a puddle in the parking lot…but I digress.
The morning started out perfectly. Clear blue sky. A crisp, yet gentle breeze off the water. The empty beach stretched out as far ahead of us as his little legs could carry him.
He marvelled at the ocean, signing “water” and “more” over and over again. He shrieked as the waves lapped at the shore — and one time, his boots — and pointed out the bubbles in the foam. He chased sea gulls in wild zig-zags across the beach. He found that sea shells were excellent for digging in the damp sand. He gathered up wads of dried seaweed, broken shells, and small bits of driftwood, and tossed them, one by one, back into the waves.
He had a wonderful morning at the beach.
I had a wonderful morning, exploring it with him.
And then…it was time to head home. Over the weekend, a friend posted as her Facebook status something along the lines of: “Trying to reason with a toddler is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.” How true that is. I warned him ahead of time like I typically do — “We have five more minutes, and then we’re going to Mommy’s car.” I said it again with three minutes to go, and said it again with a minute to go. But when it was time to go…it all hit the fan.
He glanced up at me, then continued to hunt-and-gather seaweed. I tried to redirect him by encouraging him to chase me down the beach. Instead, he darted away from me, and took off down the beach — in the opposite direction from the path to the parking lot. I caught up with him, repeated that it was time to go, and took his hand. Wailing, shrieking, Gumby-legs, arm flailing, and eventual belly-flopping ensued.
It was like nailing Jell-O to a tree. And I was done. I was tired, so tired, from being woken up several times over the night before, I was ready to leave, and I quickly found myself hanging onto the last remaining threads of my patience. Up he went, balanced on my hip. He thrashed & screamed and hollered, and I hauled him down the beach, muttering to him — to myself — “You can’t always get what you want” and “I know you want to stay here, but we really need to go home for lunch.”
That’s the thing, sometimes life picks you up and hauls you off, kicking and screaming, in a direction you don’t want to go. Now, I was ready to go home: I was tired, I was done, I was already thinking ahead to what needed to be tackled next, thinking and worrying over that ever-growing to-do list. He was still in the moment, still exploring, still taking it all in. And as I carried him, thrashing and sobbing, across the sand, it struck me — what was the rush? We had no set plans, no place to be, nothing to hurry off to. We had this morning, it was ours to enjoy as we wished. So what if we eventually returned home much later than I had planned? In the scheme of things, would this really be such a big deal?
I set him down on the sand, brushed away his tears with the back of my hand, and apologized to him for being so rushed. He hiccupped, smiled, and hugged my leg briefly, before running ahead to investigate the fence in front of the dunes, a milk jug that had washed ashore, another tangle of seaweed.
He tasted the sand, and found it disgusting.
He investigated a sign, and pointed one by one
to each and every letter as I said them out loud.
Over…and over…and over again.
We walked, together, along the path through the dunes to the parking lot.
We splashed in puddles and raced each other to the car. As I buckled him into his car seat, he chattered away, and I caught enough of the few words & signs (“water!” “bird!” “shell!”) to know that he was excitedly retelling me his adventures.
We arrived home, in great spirits. Lunch was shared, teeth were brushed, and we snuggled in together on the glider. I rocked, and rocked, and rocked, while he nursed his way into a peaceful slumber. Eyelids slowly drooped, with one little fist rested on the curve of my breast while the other arm remained loosely wrapped around his teddy bear, he gave a soft sigh and drifted off to sleep.
We both got what we needed today, after all. He was able to continue to explore until he was satisfied…and I was reminded, yet again, that sometimes it’s more important to throw the to-do list to the wind, slow down, and cherish in the moment that I’m in.
Be sure to check out what other gifts are being unwrapped this week.
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