Every year to kick off the summer – one of my oldest friends and I hit the beach with our kids.
We grew up loving the beach together and we expect the same from our children.
We always envision this day to be us sitting in our beach chairs reading magazines and catching up while our children swim, make sand castles and entertain themselves all day.
Inevitably as soon as we sit down they are bothering us.
“We are bored – can you dig a hole?” “My eyes have sand in them.” “I got stung by a jellyfish.” “Sam’s not sharing the shovel.” “Can we go crabbing?” “I’m hungry.”
And then just when we think everyone is happy and entertained…..”Can we get an ice cream? Can we get an ice cream? The ice cream man is here – Can we get an ice cream?” repeats endlessly by all four children until we can’t take it anymore and throw cash at them.
Then once they eat their ice cream they come around again peppering us with more requests.
“Can we go to the raft? Will you go to the raft with us? Can we go to the raft by ourselves? When will you come to the raft with us? How old do we have to be to go to the raft alone? When can we go to the raft today?”
It’s fucking endless.
The raft is a floating plastic square out in the middle of the Long Island Sound. It is a destination that is hard to get to. The water gets deeper and deeper and colder and colder as one approaches the raft.
I grew up going to this beach and going to the same raft myself. It can be scary. The clarity of the water, which isn’t great in Connecticut as it is – goes away completely as you go into deeper waters. I can remember
last year as a child pulling myself on the rope in the dark cold water and having a fleeting thought that a shark could be beneath me and I would never know until it was too late.
“Can’t we just let them all go together?” my friend pleaded with me after the kids asked us to go to the raft for the tenth time. “The water is so cold – we can’t go with them.”
“No way.” I answered definitively.
After five more requests she was really pressuring me, “My daughter is almost 12 -she will watch them, just let them go so we can relax!” she begged.
So obviously I would never let my 8 and 9-year-old go to the raft alone.
I could never let them go that far into the ocean alone….
I tried to read my US Weekly and enjoy the sun after saying no 50 times.
“Mom will you come to the raft with us?”
What can I say? I am weak.
I am tired.
And I just want my children to shut the fuck up and leave me alone.
So we agreed that all of the children would hold onto the rope that went from the shore to the raft the whole time and that they would each have a raft. I told the eleven-year-old child that she was in charge and directly responsible for any drownings or shark attacks.
All of the children agreed to the terms and off they went into the deep blue sea without any adults.
I watched them intently and made sure that they reached their destination and then I sat back and breathed a sigh of relief.
I saw them hanging out with the other kids on the raft and I was proud of them. Dare I say it, I was proud of myself. I mean they should be able to go to the raft. I have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on swimming lessons so that they could survive in deep waters.
I sat back and read my magazine.
Life was great.
I looked up periodically and noticed after about twenty minutes that they had headed back to shore.
They arrived back to shore alive with no shark bites.
They walked over to us with their boogie boards full of life and independence.
“Great job guys!” I greeted them ecstatically.
“Mom there were kids on the raft that were so bad!” they answered as they reached for their towels.
“Why – what happened?” I asked casually.
“Well they were talking fresh,” the eleven year old reported wisely.
“What were they saying?” me and my friend asked with amusement.
The eleven-year old reached over to whisper in my ear. I waited for her to say a curse or something benign that would not rattle me. I mean clearly nothing could rattle me because cursing is a sport that I excel in regularly.
I leaned in happily ready to hear whatever these little raft children said.
She told me quietly what a boy had said loudly on the raft for everyone to hear.
I screamed at the top of my lungs and fell off of my beach chair into the sand.
I blacked out from the horror.
When the children resuscitated me – I made her repeat herself.
“The boy said, “I’m going to F%*^& that girl in her P*#$&y”
Here I am thinking I am letting my children loose into the ocean to survive the world of waves and sharks and tides….
Only to be met with the evils of teenage American sex-crazed children.
So what’s the lesson here?
I’m still not sure.
Is the lesson – let go. You can’t control everything. Let your children go out into the world. Let them swim. Let them experience the earth and the ocean and all that encompasses and you cannot possibly control everything that they will encounter…
Or is the lesson – never let them go. Do not leave their side. Do not let them swim away into the sunset – enjoying and experiencing the world even if it includes un-pleasantries.
I am really not sure.
But for now I think they won’t be going back alone anytime soon.