From our honeymoon onward, Chris and have I adored the beach. We would spend entire days laying on the sandy shores of Alabama, reading, napping, swimming, and living as if we had no responsibilities.
It was our most freeing happy place in the world.
And then, six years into marriage, we had a baby. A highly anticipated, two-years-in-the-making precious baby girl.
We thought, naturally, that this baby would share our love for the responsibility-free beach trip. We were sure that this baby would also like to spend long days laying on the beach, reading, napping, swimming, and never, EVER throwing a wrench into our responsibility-free happy place.
This was stupid.
So, so stupid.
We mourned the beach. We worried that it would never be the same again. We had soiled our happy place forever and it was time to grow up and face the facts that we would never be free of responsibility ever again.
Even as we regained other selfish freedoms of which we had also mourned, like, say, sleeping through the night, the beach was still work.
Each beach trip onward from that first treacherous infant beach trip (from which we came home and cried in the bathroom floor) has gotten easier and more fun, but our trips have still been inundated with children afraid of waves, afraid of sand, afraid of crabs, needing to nap, and wanting us to – PLAY – with them instead of laying like slobs on the beach.
I am here to proclaim, with joyous exultation, that IT DOES HAPPEN.
The thrill of the beach does in fact return.
I’m not saying that I read a novel while laying on the beach this year, but I did indeed feel that freeness from responsibility and thorough enjoyment of my once was lost but now is found Happy Place.
I had no idea that this would be the Year of Jubilee until I walked the kids down to the beach for the first time.
Chris was gone to buy groceries and I just wanted to check out the scenery, so we were all fully clothed and simply investigating. After all, last I knew, Noah still hated moving water of any sort.
Until he ran in and jumped with no reservations.
And Ali, my even more cautious child, also found great delight in the Gulf.
I finally did remove Noah’s polo shirt, leaving him in his khaki shorts clearly showing his Thomas the Train underwear through the thin cotton as if he were in an upside-down wet T-Shirt contest. But he didn’t care. And neither did I.
And then their friends AJ and Tessa arrived – those with whom we would spend our vacation – and it only got better.
They played together, gloriously un-high-maintenance, as the sun set.
It was a beautiful, glorious thing.
We had regained the blissfulness of The Beach Trip.
And they were fully experiencing it as well – perhaps for the first time ever.
Tessa was even kind enough to stand RIGHT IN THE SUNSET BEAM – without me posing her. These kids are the best.
(For all four night’s sunset photos, click here.)
The next day, when we actually were responsible enough to put our kids in swimsuits, they played for four hours straight – while we mainly sat in our chairs in the surf and watched them.
We basked in the glory of what had to be one of the Top Ten Parenting Moments of our career.
When we got hot, we’d increase their joy and take them out past the waves for a float, where we got to watch sting rays and dolphins swim by.
(In the above picture, the dolphins are to the left and the Dads and Kids are to the right.)
(The sting rays got much closer and I stepped on two of them, which is when I learned that they present a mild electrical shock to people who step on them.)
(I’m not saying I enjoyed the shock at the moment it happened, but it is a sensation I recommend everyone experience at least once. Just to say you’ve been shocked by a living creature.)
The house we rented, Alcedonia, brought just as much joy to the kids as the beach did.
…As it should have, with three stories, three decks, plenty of play space, and a couch so vast and comfortable that it made me want to buy a beach house just so I could have that couch in it.
(I might have considered stealing it. More than once.)
The four kids paired off, giving everyone a partner for play. On our last trip, Noah was too young to be an acceptable playmate for Tessa. But now, at 3 1/2 and 5, they’re the exact same size and were both fooled into thinking they were the same age as well.
Noah kept luring Tessa out to the deck with the temptation of “I have some Cheez-Its I want to share with you…”
And his charming generosity worked.
And now we know. 3 1/2 is the age at which a boy realizes that it is not at all a bad thing to be outnumbered by women.
By the last day, we all knew that we never wanted to leave. This life of no responsibility and pure fun was absolutely meant for us.
Sure – we guarded shell collections and built a few sandcastles here and there,
But this trip. This is what the beach is supposed to feel like.
Everyone equally experiencing pure and fantastic joy.
Loving the waves,
Embracing the surf,
Allowing it to rush over us,
Oh wait – maybe too over us.
Yup – definitely too over.
I should probably never admit that I saw this coming and still chose to take pictures. Should I?
But after the wave passed and he found himself sitting on the ocean floor, he thought it was kinda cool.
He just needed some wave-jumping training from Ali and AJ,
Who not only have the skill perfected,
But also have the facial expressions to match the activity.
Both mid-jump, pre-jump,
Although AJ did seem to take the task a bit more seriously than Ali,
Because athletic pursuits should always be taken seriously.
And one should always look like they’re smelling something especially unsavory when in the middle of their sport of choice.
Tessa watched their performance studiously,
Then did a stellar job of pursing the sport herself.
But at five, it is impossible to achieve without sticking one’s tongue out.
As far as possible.
The entire trip was perfection. From morning to sunset,
And every photobomb in between.
I’m not sure we can wait two years to make it happen again.
Because I’m ready to return. Right now.