A relatively relaxed moment in a calm, protected bay. She didn’t get much closer than this to the water’s edge.
We just got back from a week in Hawaii. It was a great trip and may become a February tradition now that we’re residents of the great and rainy state of Oregon. It was brilliant to escape the lingering wet winter, soak up a little sunshine, and relax together with some of our best friends.
We stayed just a couple of blocks from the beach and went there daily. I had pictured Cee playing in the sand and splashing in the waves. But the minute we stepped foot on the beach, Cee clung to my neck and did not want to be set down. It was yet another lesson in setting aside expectations and meeting my child where she was. And at this point in her life, she isn’t a fan of the beach.
Cee hasn’t spent much time at the beach in her short life, but this wasn’t her first time either. We visited Hawaii when she was 6 months old, and we’ve taken day trips to the Oregon coast a couple of times per year. But all of her previous experiences have been to rather wild coastlines, so she’s only dipped her toes in from the safety of our arms. I admit that we probably didn’t give her much choice about those early encounters. This was really the first time that she’s been able to verbally describe to us how the ocean makes her feel.
“I no like ocean.”
“Feel scared beach.”
“Go home, Mama?”
She’s terrified of the ocean.
And I can’t blame her. The ocean is huge. It’s unpredictable, powerful, and loud. It’s incomprehensible. To a two-year-old who wants to control her environment as much as possible, the ocean is frightening.
I tell her: It’s OK. I’m scared of the ocean, too. It’s OK to feel scared.
But let’s just put our toes in, I tell her. Let’s see how the water and the sand feel on our feet. She nods, though skeptically. I pick her up and we walk towards the surf. A wave approaches and breaks several feet out, and an inch or two of water and foam gently wash over my feet. She grabs me tighter and says directly into my ear, “All done, Mama! All done, Mama! All done, Mama!”
I respect that. I respect a little girl who can look me in the eye, head held high, and tell me she’s afraid. She says this even as children play around us, racing the waves breaking on the shore. I know that I can’t explain away Cee’s fear of something this big.
But I do want to tell her this:
The ocean terrifies me too. Read more