A few days ago, I was floating in a tube on the Connecticut shore. It was an amazing beach day. A perfect beach day. The kind you wish for when you are driving there. The kind which makes you want to put on a bathing suit, and dive in. Hot, sticky, and 85 degrees at 9:00am.
As the third week of August crept along, I was determined to hold on to summer as long as possible. Taking a few days off of work, the girls and I headed down to the beautiful town of Madison, which sits perfectly on the Long Island Sound. A chic, quiet summer-year-round-feeling kind of town, it was a perfect getaway for me and my girls.
They are 9 and almost 12, and growing up much too fast for this mom. I know everyone says this, especially when their child enters kindergarten. But honestly, when my mother told me that once they begin school the years will fly by, she wasn’t kidding me.
So I am holding on to them for dear life. I take pictures, I hug them (both things
definitely maybe a little too much), but as the person who gave birth to them I am entitled to as many pictures and hugs as I want I tell them on a daily basis.
So when my Aunt suggested coming to spend some time with her at the beach this summer, I jumped at the opportunity to make magical beautiful memories with my growing-too-fast girls before the summer was over. I had a plan.
My plan was simple. I had a mental list in my head that went something like this:
Wake up early every morning to see the sun rise. Spend lazy days walking along the beach, looking for sea glass and seashells. Watch the girls cartwheel and do handstands on the sand. Read my book every day without interruptions. Sit on the rocks and look out into the beautiful sea and really be silent. Talk with my oldest about changes happening to her. Listen to my youngest about her hopes and fears. Laugh, play, relax, unwind, and really feel the summer before it gets away. Oh, and most importantly, no fighting. No bickering among my girls, which has increasingly become a favorite hobby this summer.
What happened at the beach was not this.
What happened was REAL LIFE.
We slept in every morning and missed the sun rising. I even set my alarm early. The girls could not find any sea glass, but one managed to step on a broken shell and hurt her foot. They bickered, then stopped, then bickered again. They did endless cartwheels and handstands on the beach. Twelve refused to get into the water tube and float with me because “Are you kidding me mom? It’s FREEZING?! And I don’t know about you but I’m not going in”.
(This same girl later challenged me to a handstand contest in the water… and WHAT? I remembered how to do them. Not perfectly straight, but I GOT UP THERE…)
Nine ran into the water full of energy dragging my book behind with her. Books went unread, shells stepped on, and the sun rose and set without us watching it. But what I learned was something much more powerful. That sometimes, as much as I’d like to, I can’t control everything. Not even vacations on the beach. I can plan and plan, and then life happens. And it’s OKAY.
Sometimes I learn from my girls that it’s okay to not be perfect. To just be OKAY.
You know the book, All I Really Need To Know, I Learned in Kindergarten? Well all I learned a lot this week from my tweens. About letting go and being okay. In fact being more than okay. So here’s my list…
Some of What I Really Need To Know About Being Okay I Learned From a 9 and 12 Year Old:
1. Sometimes sleeping in is OKAY. In fact it’s necessary. Even when I have plans to wake up early. Sometimes plans can be changed. (
Huge, very big, enormous one for me.)
2. Sometimes missing a sunrise or a sunset is OKAY. Just waking up to another day with the sun shining and being at the beach is in fact, more than okay.
3. Sometimes you find the sunset, the magic, in places you didn’t think to look. Like watching your youngest cartwheel on the beach. Over and over. Her strong body, her smile, her confidence, is empowering. It’s magic.
4. Sometimes when looking for sea glass, you step on a sharp shell. Which reminds you that you are human. And stuff happens. And you move on
5. Sometimes acting like a 9 year old is OKAY. Just do it. Handstands in the water ARE fun. Especially when you are 45, and haven’t done one in at least twenty years.
6. Sometimes being laughed at is OKAY. Especially if it makes someone else laugh. Like your daughters as they watch you try and pull yourself out of a swimming tube.
7. Sometimes planning the “perfect talk” with your 12 year old may just never EVER happen and that is OKAY. Sometimes you wait, and wait and wait. And just when you think she will never come into the water (it is NOT THAT COLD for God’s sake), it happens. She swims in. And begins to talk about nothing. Then something. And if you are there, waiting and waiting, she opens up. HER WAY.
8. Sometimes not making a list is OKAY. Sometimes just letting the day take shape, unplanned is okay. Letting things happen may turn out better than when you have them all planned out. (I can go back to my lists tomorrow.)
9. Sometimes letting your daughters bicker and fight is OKAY. Stepping back and letting them work it out for themselves. They are not two and four, they are growing up and becoming who they are in this world. (WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?!) This is a tough one, this letting it go thing. But I think I realized something listening to them fighting. They are never (NOT EVER) going to stop fighting, OR hopefully LOVING ONE ANOTHER. This is who they are. They love each other, even when they are fighting. And I’m learning to live with this. This too will be okay.
10. Sometimes when you let your guard down, the most beautiful things happen, and it’s more than OKAY. The bickering ends and you catch magic, as you watch your 12 year old buy her little sister a take-apart-eraser at your favorite bookstore. You watch from afar as she gives her a budget, then open her wallet to take out her money (which she has earned from babysitting and keeps under lock and key) and hands it to the clerk. It’s more than okay, it’s beautiful. (Okay, getting weepy over a take-apart soccer ball eraser which is
probably definitely going to end up lost in our house in two days sounds silly, but go with me on this… )
As I write this they are arguing upstairs. I am not getting up. Something about “stop wearing my clothes without asking” … I think.
This is OKAY. Breathing through this one. Remembering this too shall pass…