Exhale and Laugh

by Ginger on March 16, 2012

in Mom Thoughts

The warmth on my face and shoulders may have come from the sun, but the warmth in my lap was better. A little boy wrapped in a towel, shivering from the hour he had spent flinging himself with joyful abandon into the not-yet-warm-enough-for-swimming Pacific, warming my legs even through the cool towel. The weight of him: curling into my chest, pulling my arms around him, nestled.  Content, for a rare moment, to sit and watch.

The day–the weekend–was a much needed salve to a wounded parenting psyche. The boy is challenging on good days and utterly devastating on bad. I wonder, often, if I’m enough of a parent for him, if I’m just screwing it all up. The tantrums, the defiance, the oh-my-god-if-you-don’t-start-listening-I’m-going-to-lose-my-mind, the battles, the pace…they all make me want to cry from the feelings of incompetence.

It had been a long time since we’d had a good weekend. Moments, hours, maybe even a single day here and there. But some magic dust coated the entire weekend, as sunlight and warm temperatures filtered through the windows and doors. The hours had been filled with family jumpy time in the living room, watching Finding Nemo on the floor exclaiming over DUDE CRUSH again and again, park time. Instead of 100 tantrums a day, we had 10. The whole family enjoyed breakfasts together, lunches, dinners. We were filled with giggles and laughs and smiles and hugs and happy.

That Sunday especially was so pitch perfect, so idyllic, I still wonder if we used up our quota of picturesque on that one day. There were naps in the sun and ticklefests for the whole family. There were high pitched squeals of delight over the simple joy of chasing the dog. There was quiet and still and calm as I enjoyed time to myself while the people and animals dozed.

After, we went to the beach.

Leash in one hand, toddler fingers in the other. Sand between my toes, sun on my face, a breeze whispering across my cheeks.

Exhale.

And then they were off. The dog leaping and frolicking with other dogs. The boy, barreling full-tilt straight into the bracing water, laughing the entire time. This beach has a little inlet where the waves are tamed, making it calmer and more comfortable for a boy of just over 3 feet tall. No fear, no trepidation, just barreling straight for the water. Laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing.

You couldn’t help but laugh with him.

The water was COLD. But he would not be deterred. It was joy, unadulterated enormous all encompassing JOY. And he would not be put off. For an hour, he ran into the water. For an hour, he flew between land and sea and built a castle of joy around all of us.

And then, when he was finally tired and cold, he let me wrap him in a towel and sit him on my lap and he watched the dogs and the water and the people while I watched him. He drank in the beach and I drank in the happiness.

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Christine @ Love, Life, Surf March 16, 2012 at 11:20 am

Ginger – This kind of took my breath away as I read it because of the way that it was beautifully written but also because I can totally relate to those idyllic and perfect hours/days/moments and how they can heal the parenting soul. It sounds like you had an amazing weekend and so glad that you captured it and shared it with us.

Cloud March 16, 2012 at 11:48 am

I like this post!

My older daughter is too timid to splash in the waves and has almost no body fat so gets cold way too fast. But we still have fun at the beach- I’m looking forward to the start of the season! Also to seeing what my younger daughter does this year. She’s less timid than her sister.

On the tantrums- have you ever read Raising Your Spirited Child, by Kurcinka? I think my older daughter came in as “spunky” not “spirited” on her rating scheme, but I still found a lot of the ideas in that book incredibly useful for tantrum avoidance and handling.

Ginger March 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm

You know, I had just gotten that book from the library when you left this comment, and I spent the weekend reading pieces of it (you were about the 3rd person to recommend it, so I figured it was worth it). And while I’m not done yet, I’m finding a LOT in there that I’m really connecting with.

And J? Definitely on the spirited spectrum of her rating. 🙂

Christa the BabbyMama March 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Love it!

And wish I was living where you are – it’s definitely not beach weather here!

hollow tree ventures March 16, 2012 at 7:34 pm

This post made me happy. I love those days; my heart smiles just to think of it. 🙂

ARC March 16, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Lovely post, though it made me shiver, until I realized you probably live a lot further south on the Pacific than I do (Seattle) 🙂

Not sure how old your son is, but 2.5 is sort of kicking my butt these days. I’m sort of stuck in this “I need you to do what I say” thing, but really, that’s not the way I want to parent. I’d rather do it by logic, and explanation, etc. but sometimes it just takes so long and I’m so damn tired. Grrrr.

Ginger March 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Yeah, the weather in San Diego (most of the winter) is usually a little easier for beaching it up than in Seattle 😉

And, yeah, my boy is 2.5. It’s…uh…well, challenging is a nice way of putting it. I’m right there with you.

Classic NYer March 18, 2012 at 8:44 am

What a beautiful moment, and so well put! I felt like I was there with you.

Hope March 18, 2012 at 10:27 am

Loverly… just loverly.

Jamie March 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Oh, what a beautiful moment to share… and so descriptive!!

A post to be proud of =)

Megan March 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm

This makes me yearn for the beach even more right now. I breathe in sea air and breathe out everything. I’m so happy for your good weekend!

Jennie March 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Beautiful, Ginger. Just beautiful.

I’m just so happy that you had such a happy weekend. I wish for so many more just up ahead for you.

clara March 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I love it when a child sits still, especially a child who is usually running full tilt. There is some amazing level of trust there, when someone can be still with you.

Anyway, this is a beautifully written post, Ginger. I’m glad you had a good day, and that you wrote it down for us/you.

Ginger March 20, 2012 at 10:58 pm

There is something that is incredibly *potent* about J’s stillness, as you said, especially because he is usually running. It’s also something that helps sort refill my parenting meter back up, when he lets us both be still together.

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