Sunday, September 7, 2008


When we first get to the beach, it's a little stressful. It's stressful because Andrew is in a state of pure ecstasy. And that is always stressful.

Not only is he excited about the beach, which might be his favorite place on earth. But he is absolutely overjoyed at being around his cousins. So overjoyed that he throws sand at them. And knocks down their sand castles. And therefore spends a good part of the first two beach days sitting away from the group in time-out because he was throwing sand and knocking down sand castles.

And then I spend a good part of the first two beach days in inner turmoil. I'm embarrassed that he is not behaving like I want him too. I'm worried that my family thinks I'm a bad parent, weak on discipline. I'm concerned that Andrew has more aggressive tendencies than I will let myself admit. But then, somewhere in the midst of that, I can hear, and sometimes listen to, a small rational voice. A voice that says something like: "Yes, Andrew is a bit of a wild child, and that is not all bad." Or "just because he is throwing sand now does not mean he will always throw sand. Just teach him not to."

And just when I assume that the group has written me off as a bad parent, the shift comes. It's some time on day 3. Andrew stops throwing sand. Andrew has calmed down immensely. I forget to worry about whether or not I am bad parent. The kids play together and there are still a few skirmishes, but they are not too bad. I can relax.

By the end of the week the lines marking who's kids are who's are a little blurred. Not that I am going to accidentally take Katie home with me, but I'm as likely to walk with her on the boardwalk as her mom is. We are all more comfortable around each other. I take Alex down to the water. My brother reads Andrew a bedtime story. My sister-in-law watches Isaac while I go swimming. And although this begins a little from day one, by midweek it feels natural.

By the end of the week I'm surprised at my earlier worries. Not that I'm resolved to assume I am a good parent with it all figured out. I know I'm still a beginner with a lot to learn. I just stop feeling embarrassed about that.

And that feels great.


un-nerved said...

I thought you were going to say that on day 3 you're the one who starts throwing sand.

Robyn said...

now that's a fantastic idea!

Melissa said...

I SO know this whole "I'm excited to see you, so I'm going to act agressive!" thing. Atticus went through it a few months after Enzo was born. I remember when our new neighbors moved in, and he'd get so excited to see the kids. Once, he pushed little Audrey (who was only about 18 months old), because he just didn't know how to express his excitement at seeing her. I was sure the mom would never want to see us again. But, of course, she had gone through the same thing with her older child.

We had a lot of talks that went something like this. "It seems like you are excited to see ______. But we don't push (or throw sand at or run into) people. If you are excited to see _________, maybe you could ask them to play with you or give them a hug or say, "I'm excited to see you, ___________." Sometimes I felt like he would never get it, but I think it finally clicked!