When I was pregnant with Vivienne, a seasoned mother passed along the most helpful pearl of parenting wisdom: everything is a phase.
The hard moments will pass… and so will the delightful ones. It’s okay to pause and bask in the joy a little bit. It fills you up, sustains you through the the harder parts of parenting in this complicated, broken world.
Last summer, Hugh was so teeny, I don’t think we got to the beach more than once or twice. But this summer, everyone is mobile and bursting at the seams with energy, so weekday beach trips have been more frequent… joyful little time-outs in the midst of hot, busy weeks.
Sometimes I just toss the kids in the car with a couple towels and some buckets, and drive five minutes over to our little Beverly cove beach for an hour or two. We stomp through the cold surf, build a quick sand castle (Vivi), smash it (Hugh).
But last Thursday, my sister, Hillary, came to visit, so we decided to make a day of it and drive up to Good Harbor in Gloucester.
We can always count on Auntie Hillary (a science teacher) for some good beach combing and scientific observation. She’s like the ultimate beach buddy for a curious five year old, searching for hermit crabs and investigating any little sea creatures they can find.
Hillary and I are very much on the same wavelength in terms of beach snacks… sometimes we get nostalgic and bring oreos, which are intentionally left out to get melty in the sun. (Is that weird? We reminisce about summers at the pool, when Mom always, or so it seemed, sent us with oreos in plastic sandwich bags, baking in the sun while we swam. Ah, the 80’s.)
Anyway, the oreos are a rare treat these days. Our go-to is cold fruit, packed up with plenty of ice — usually watermelon or cherries. We had both along last Thursday, much to the kids’ delight. Hillary did did a better job distributing the watermelon than I did with the cherries…
In between swims and snacks, there is, of course, the sandcastle building. I love Good Harbor beach for its tide pools… knee-deep with gentle currents, they’re a perfect spot for little ones to play. Viv decided on an island castle this time, hunting around the rocks with Auntie Hillary for decorations.
So these are our weekday beach adventures… setting up camp, scampering from one delight to the next, leaping the icy waves, those little bodies clinging to their mother with exhilarated shrieks. Then, the occasional rest under the umbrella — rest, mind you, is a relative term. Hugh might briefly lay his head on my knee, allow himself to be wrapped in a towel and snuggled for a moment. Vivi might play at laying out a towel for a nap, only to be distracted by a nosy gull or a pack of kids nearby. “Mom, can we ask them to play?!”
But, nap or no nap, everyone is happier at the beach. Circumstances that would normally prompt a meltdown are instead easily forgotten with a walk, sandy snack in hand, down to the water.
I recently realized I won’t be able to sit still and read a novel at the beach — one of my great joys — for at least four more years. But that time will come. This phase will pass. I’ll long for these busy, adventurous days, these quiet summer bedtimes, these exhausted, sun-kissed, freshly bathed little bodies relaxing in my arms as I sing them to sleep.