Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The beach

One of the very best things about spring and summer in Seattle (when it eventually arrives) is the ability to go to a number of gorgeous, scenic beaches within a stone's throw of almost wherever you are. They aren't the white sand, blue water beaches of postcards, but the ones I loved from growing up - rocky, rugged, and littered with driftwood. We are incredibly fortunate to live about two blocks from Discovery Park, which has within its borders one of the most beautiful and deserted beaches around. Part of the reason for this is that in order to park in the lot at the beach, you need to sign out a special pass at the visitor's center that is only available to people with small children, the disabled, and the elderly. Otherwise, in order to see this scenic beauty you need to hike about a mile from the nearest parking lot down a steep trail. That means that only about 8 people at a time have a pass, and the rest of the people walking through are there for part of their long walk, not really to lounge around. I discovered this little gem last summer, and we've already been there at least 5 times this spring. No people means that I can let the kids run without the constant policing of interactions with other kids, stealing of toys, throwing of sand....not that I mind doing that stuff, but sometimes it's nice to just sit and let kids be kids in the sand.

Today, the sun was just beginning to peek through the clouds around 11, and we decided that maybe today would be another good day to hop down to our favorite spot. We had nothing on the schedule and only time, so I left my phone at home and packed a lunch and the sand gear, and off we went. We parked and picked through the thin trails to the beach, down a steep bank and over the piles of driftwood and got ourselves set up by a log partially buried in the sand. Almost instantly, Sam and Caroline took two different approaches to enjoying their time, and I sat and observed.

Not far off to the left, a group of a few families had set up a tent and some chairs, and all their kids were down at the waterline throwing in rocks. Caroline saw them and clung to me, looking suspiciously at the group of strangers.

"Mommy, can I go play with those kids?" Sam asked excitedly. After I said he could, he was off like a shot down to the water.

"Hi, I'm Sam!" he said to the other kids, most of them a few years older than him. They all acknowledged him, and one of the kids popped off a shot into the water. "Nice one!" Sam said approvingly. The kid that threw the rock, looked appraisingly at Sam.

"You want to play with us?" he asked.


Meanwhile, Caroline had grabbed a bucket and toddled down to the water. She stood in silence, observing the waves as they lapped up onto the rocks. Then, she very carefully bent down, picked up one rock, turned it over in her hand, and placed it in her bucket. She plopped her bottom down on the wet rocks and continued her careful collecting.

I sat on my log, looking at my two kids. How different both of them are! Sam is outgoing, social, wants to fit in with interesting kids, and knows how. Caroline is an observer. She wants to get the lay of the land, and then, once she feels safe, is perfectly content to live in her own little world doing her own little things. She's funny, but you really have to earn the right to see that.

Both of them are going to have to learn to live out of their comfort zones at some point in time. Sam will have to learn to be alone with himself, and he'll eventually have to deal with kids that don't like him or want to play with him. Caroline will need to learn that we don't always get to be by ourselves as much as we'd like to be, and sometimes we have to learn to play well with others when we'd rather just sit and look at rocks (can you tell I can relate to that?).

Both of these personalities have their unique strengths and challenges. I'm so blessed that I get to help them uncover those.

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