This summer has been a struggle.
It really shouldn’t have been. Compared to last summer, with Sarah Kate’s neverending rehab – Oh, the rehab! – and a trip I didn’t much want to take, and the shadow of Nathan’s failure to potty train looming over me, there’s no doubt this summer has been much easier. Rehab is behind us and swim team has been a boon to Sarah Kate’s mobility, there’s no threat of Nathan being booted from school because of his unreliable bathroom habits, and I’ve put a volunteer commitment that was weighing me down in my rearview mirror.
But this summer has had its own challenges. I looked forward to carefree days and trips to the gulf beaches, but Nathan acquired walking pneumonia and not long after he recovered, I was similarly afflicted. My trip to Charleston went ahead, but instead of spending my free time there seeing the city or making new friends, I kept retiring to my room to rest because I wasn’t quite well yet – my room that, like most of the rest of the hotel, didn’t have running water for a day and a half.
And as much as I hate to admit it, I believe that a part of me is wound way too tight this summer, knowing that Sarah Kate will be moving up to the middle school this year, with all of its potential pitfalls, and simultaneously Nathan will begin kindergarten in the big school, away from the protective cocoon of the inclusive preschool building on the hill behind it where he spent last year.
But we finally – FINALLY! – made it to the beach for the first time this weekend, with just under a month to go before school starts again. The gulf coast beaches are not the only reason that we moved to Mayberry – if they were, we’d live closer than the 30 mile drive it takes us to get there – but they were the catalyst that got us to thinking about a move eight years ago, remembering when once upon a time in the early days of our marriage we said we wanted to live along the gulf coast.
As much as we love living so close to the bay, the salty sea air and the blinding white sand do something for the soul that the bay cannot.
We only went to the beach once last year, and it was a challenge, even with Mr. Andi’s mom along to help us. I wasn’t sure how well Sarah Kate would do on the sand, and given Nathan’s propensity to RUN! everywhere he goes, I wasn’t sure how relaxing it would be.
But you know what? It was awesome.
We got a new upright beach cart, and it was perfect for Sarah Kate to hold onto while we set up camp. Nathan loved the sand as much as he ever has, and the former Mayor of Inner Beauty Beach didn’t approach another soul the whole time we were there.
For the first time, Mr. Andi and I both sat in chairs at the same time, relaxing under our pop up shelter, with no need to worry about who was doing what and where. I began to believe I could take the kids to the beach alone, on a weekday.
Oh, yes, I did.
I know taking kids to the beach isn’t always a cake walk, no matter who you are. I also know that not everyone is as blessed as we are to live close enough to pop over to the beach for the day, or even just an afternoon.
But I also know that it’s a tough thing to go to the beach, having two kids with special needs, and widely disparate needs at that, and it’s disheartening to have something so beautiful so near to you and not be able to enjoy it. Sarah Kate is old enough and mature enough to help supervise Nathan, except for one crucial element: he can outrun her. All the sisterly caregiving in the world won’t do a thing if he takes off while I’m unloading the car.
But in this season of life, he seems content to shovel sand and sit on the water’s edge, smiling at his big sister and enjoying her company. Despite his love of the swimming pool, the wide expanse of blue-green gulf water is a scary thing, so sitting in a chair while the waves crash at their feet is perfectly fine with him, and it suits her, as well.
In the words of Isak Dinesen, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”