I spent today at the beach. It’s a holiday week for many Americans, so more people were on the beach with me this time, lots of families, lots of children. Great for people watching. The children in the encampment next to my chair and the children playing at the water’s edge caught my attention today.
Two young sibling boys wearing matching “FUN IN THE SUN” shirts chased each other around beach chairs and toys and the cooler-on-wheels, until their mother stopped them with an exasperated shout. Their baby sister, in a pink & ruffled swimsuit, played peek-a-boo with me from behind a chair. From the moment they’d arrived, they really wanted to go down to the water’s edge. One of them had headed straight there, ignoring his mother’s “Christian! CHRISTIAN! Wait ’til I’m finished setting up here!” Busy mom, impatient and disappointed child.
Later, the air cooled a bit, and thoughts of dinner made their way into my sun-drowsy head. Three pre-teen girls held hands, shouted, and jumped into the water now rolling towards unsuspecting towels and beach bags. The boy in their group, a little bit older, had been enjoying being chased by one of the girls, until she saw what the other two girls were doing. The boy watched the trio of shouting, leaping girls and realized that his fun was over for now. He was not invited into their sorority of jumping; he wasn’t interested, anyway. He turned to the ocean and did his own splashing around.
Children at the beach, I thought. So much fun to be had! Doing the work of children, the work of playing. Thoroughly immersing themselves in the elements of sand and water, under the bluest of skies and the whitest of clouds. Just being.
I did my best to emulate them; it wasn’t hard. I was in a receiving, peaceful mood. I’d had my coffee and quiet time on the nearly-empty beach early in the morning, letting go of all the inner noise, living in the moment. Grateful.
I’m going to remember, I think, to be more childlike at the beach. I can get lazy and too earthbound. Today, I threw a lime green plastic football from ankle-deep water to my daughter swimming amongst the waves. I love doing that. I agreed to listen as she read a chapter from the first Harry Potter book aloud. I loved doing that, too. Around me, I noticed some adults being so serious about everything. “What are you doing, Ryan? SMILE for the picture! No, not like THAT!” I secretly adored the silly face the kid was making, a natural goofball, my kind of person. Those are the REALLY great photos, I thought. The serious smile ones can be in the school pictures. Let the vacation pictures show the relaxed, happy, authentic kid.
We can learn a lot from children at the beach, if we let them. Run! Throw a ball! Get real close to a sand crab. Jump! Jump in! Now!