I didn’t know what was missing in my heart until I watched my oldest light up at first sight of the ocean.
I had no idea how much I needed to see their little toes burrow into the sand.
Or how much they really needed this vacation too.
I didn’t ask them to hold each other’s hand as they ran straight for the water and waves. It was just what they wanted to do.
If I close my eyes I can still smell that day. Salt water and sand mixed in with sunscreen and fresh air.
I can still feel the way she felt when I gave her a great big hug at the beginning of the ocean. Gritty and sweaty and blissfully happy.
I worried about their reaction to the sand and how they would feel about sitting in it and getting dirty. They dug right in and started building sand castles like the beach was all they’ve ever known.
And watching him with his girls? Their little hands clinging tightly to his. The way the fear in their faces melted away the second they were near him. He holds their hearts in his hands. He holds mine too.
I spent weeks psyching myself up for this vacation. Five days travelling with small children. My anxieties about flying and the ocean and parenting all waiting to take me down. I wished that I could be different for them and for me. I wished I could be the mother that was genuine when I said I was excited about going on vacation with my family. I wished I could go with the flow and just handle the day as it comes instead of incessantly worrying about what could happen. I wished that I could fulfill my promises to Clint that I would spend more time seeing the the beauty in every moment rather than the struggle.
I showed up to the beach and I felt my palms starting to sweat as I watched the girls running toward the ocean with Clint. I yelled at him to keep them closer, to hold their hands tighter. I spit out a caustic “I told you so” as we carried two screaming children back from the water after falling down. I set them up with pails and shovels and started to think about how much trouble all of this had been and now they were terrified of the ocean and we’d have to spend the rest of the day in the sand.
And then I heard myself and realized the only person stopping me from enjoying this day was myself. It wasn’t my kids crying at the water, it wasn’t Clint purposely not listening to me. It was me, letting my fear and anxiety overcome me. I was my own worst enemy.
In that moment, I made a choice. One that I rarely ever make. I took a deep breath and let it all go. I took Maddie by the hand and told her we were just going to let the water touch our toes. And when she cried I picked her up and said that was okay, we would go hunt for sea shells. And then we tried again. And again and again. And finally the exhilaration of the cold ocean water running past her feet and receding right back overcame her. And I was there. I was holding her hand for that moment that she fell in love with beach.
This trip was so many things for me. It was magical and overwhelming and way more emotional than I could have ever imagined.
I had no idea how much I needed it until I was there.
This trip taught me to find my joy. From now on when someone asks me how I got the extra skip in my step, I’ll have to tell them it was the salt water.