This weekend just gone we went to the beach as a family. There are two reasons why I was very excited about this. The first, is that we don’t always get a chance to have quality family time, and the second is that the wind and the weather settled for this particular afternoon so it was meant to be. A day without wind in my city is rare, because, well, it’s bloody windy here. A nice afternoon at the beach can often mean shards of sand literally piercing their way through your layers of skin. Painful.
My husband and I spent afternoons and days at the beach before we had kids, swimming and drinking cider. Salt water, ‘fro hair, sandy feet, that’s living. After the boys were born, we took them down a couple times, but it became traumatic with the whippy sand in their faces and the loud crashes of the waves. Plus being babies, they weren’t too keen on the cold water. God, kids really do suck the fun out of your life, don’t they? I joke, of course, but the point is no beach time for us. Sometimes I’d fill the little shells up outside and sit my children in there and pretend we were beachside, but that’s about as far as we got.
So yeah, the beach, pretty exciting. One of my boys ran through the sand, chasing birds, falling over, straight into the ocean with not a care in the world. He stood there, thigh deep in icy water staring into the ocean like he was home.
My other son did not take quite so well to the water. We took him in a little bit, but he’d have none of it. He was more of a sit back and watch from the cocktail lounge kinda guy. And by lounge I mean beach towel, and by cocktail I mean his bucket and his spade. He felt safe there on the shore. We tried a few times to get him used to it, but he was fairly traumatised, so I just left it. Dad and Twin 1 splashed in the water and Mum and Twin 2 watched from the sidelines.
A bit later on, he wanted to walk and look at the rocks, so we did. He wanted to walk and look at the birds and we did. He wanted to throw sand in a hole, so we did. After about an hour he realised, maybe the ocean wasn’t so bad and he’d get as close as he could to the water, without actually touching it. He was scared still, but he was curious. I stood a few metres behind him watching him decide whether he would take that leap of faith and go just another step forward. The next thing that happened was a moment that I wanted to freeze in time. He walked to me, and held his hand out. I grabbed it and that gave him all the courage he needed to go that little bit further. To face his fears. He led me into the water and we stood there, and as long as I was holding his hand tightly he could do it, just a bit further and a little bit deeper. He turned to me and smiled. He was happy.
He felt safe with me.
I felt many emotions overwhelm me in that split second in time. Like how I didn’t need my phone to take a picture to remember how amazing it felt. Like how it was the first time one of my very independent toddlers willingly grabbed my hand. Like how he was a little boy with emotions and fears now.
We all want to feel safe. I look back on my childhood and I knew as long as my parents were around that everything was ok. I could take that final step into whatever I feared. Even now, my mum tells me to take these little leaps of faith, and she encourages me, and I feel it’s going to be fine after all. You can do it. I’m here. I’ve got your back.
Maybe on Sunday I realised I wasn’t doing so badly at this parenting thing after all. So, my kids still have bottles. I didn’t breastfeed too long. My boys watch a bit too much tv. They aren’t in beds yet. Sometimes I can only be bothered giving them sandwiches for dinner. I bribe them with Tiny Teddies at the supermarket. Occasionally I hide in the cupboard and eat treats while they yell at me from behind the closed door (don’t ever deny you haven’t done this). But, the most important thing is, they feel safe with me. They feel secure. With me in their corner, they can conquer their fears. With me in their corner, they can achieve anything they set their mind to. I’m sure one day, they might hate me and think of me as their worst enemy, but I will always, ALWAYS be their safety net. Forever.
And that’s the most important thing we can achieve.