Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid? The feeling that the world is a bright and shiny place, you are at home in your own skin, and nothing bad is going to happen.
I remember what it felt like to run unabashed, the wind across my skin, my hair whipped into a frenzy. No worries and no fears. Not a care in the world. I remember the sun in the summer, the ice cold of Lake Superior, the squish of mud between my toes, the shock of plunging into a northern Minnesota lake, the smell of dirt, the sting of snow, the feel of grass on my bare feet, the laughter. It wasn’t until much later when I realized that not all children have childhoods like mine. Then having the Roc has shown me a whole other side of childhood I never knew existed.
All three of those tied together to create a perfect storm. A storm when the sun is shining, a storm when the birds are singing, a storm when the waves are crashing on frolicking children, a storm when they are laughing the airy laughter of childhood, splashing in the foam and sand. A storm in my beautiful son’s body, in his mind, a storm that I would give anything to calm. A storm that steals the carefree spirit I remember from childhood.
The Roc has been afraid of waves for the last 2 years. We did not travel to South Carolina last summer, opting to take a vacation to Colorado instead. So the Roc hadn’t been back to Pawleys Island since 2008. The year he wouldn’t set his feet on the sand because it was too hot, the year he screamed if I tried to lower him down or walk with him towards the ocean, the year he wouldn’t get anywhere near the ocean side, preferring to sit near the waterway when we forced him onto the beach (on my hip.) A beach vacation that was spent at Nonna and Nonno’s pool. The family vacation in which we one day left 1/3 of our little family watching a movie so we could go to the beach, only to eyeball the other families romping through the tiny swells, and feel the gaping hole of the one we left behind.
The fear of waves is still present 2 years later, but the Roc really likes the beach now. He asks to go all the time, he wants to watch the waves from a safe distance, and he likes to play in the sand. When we went down to South Carolina in June he thoroughly enjoyed walking at Huntington Beach State Park in the evening, up by the sand dunes, ever watchful of the water. He loved going to Pawleys Island to play in the sand and was even willing to get into the tidal pools, as long as the tide didn’t start to come in and make little waves. And I tried really, really hard not to compare him to his cousins and his friend P, who we met up with and who LOVES to go in the waves. But I had a hard time letting go of the longing I felt as I stood in the surf, waves crashing against my knees, the Roc’s cousins and my best friend’s son lit up with delight while playing in the foamy rushing water. I wanted the Roc to be out there too. I wanted to roll around in the waves with him, I wanted him to experience the abandon the other children felt. I would look back over my shoulder at him building a sand castle all alone and wish I could wipe anxiety, sound sensitivity, and fear from his beach experience. It was hard for me to let go of my vision of what I wanted the day to be like. I struggled with it.
When we went back to South Carolina for the second time this summer I promised myself I wouldn’t push the ocean experience, that I would let the Roc be, that I would let go. On the first evening we went walking at Huntington and I tried to smile and push back the twinge as I again watched the Roc’s cousins splash in the surf
while he stayed up by the dunes constructing a sand castle.
I reminded myself to let go as we starting walking down the shore and I watched the Roc run, knowing that he never before would have strayed so far from my side, only the influence of his cousins could get him to swallow his fear of the waves.
GC and I encouraged the Roc to play in the tidal pools along with his cousins. It took awhile of him watching those waves,
and watching his cousins, before he took the shallow plunge and got in.
Always keeping at least one eye on those waves.
Later that night as I looked back over the photos I was just so happy that he participated. That he didn’t allow his fear to overcome him, that he made memories with his SC cousins. He had fun.
Three days later GC, the Roc, Guinness and I headed to Pawleys ready to soak in the sun, play in the sand, and watch those waves. I forced GC to trudge our stuff to the end of the beach where the inlet meets the ocean. I had a feeling we might be able to get him close to the water there and even from far away I could spy a huge tidal pool. We set up our stuff and let Guinness run wild, chasing his ball. I gently prodded the Roc into the tidal pool and was very surprised when he mentioned the tiny waves and then SAT DOWN amongst them.
There he stayed as they got bigger.
Eventually the ocean invaded the tidal pool…and the Roc was still there. Still in the waves…!!!
Not long after Nonna came walking down the beach with the Roc’s cousins and I laughed out loud when she first saw the Roc in the waves. Her jaw dropped open, her eyes popped, and she flung her arm up and pointed at him, agape that he was in the ocean! The Roc had the biggest grin, he was so proud of himself.
I was too and I finally got to see something I had ached to witness, the Roc letting go and just being a kid at the beach,
with his cousins,
all three carefree.
Is there anything better?