Life’s a Beach—by Jamie Levine
I love the beach. When I was a child, I went to day camp for one summer and hated it; after that (and prior to that), I spent all of my summers at the beach. My family shared a cabana with our neighbors, and be it with my siblings or without them, or whether I had a friend to accompany me or not, I spent most of my summer days there, playing in the sand, and splashing in the ocean and pool.
My daughter, Jayda, loves the beach as well. However, she barely knows how to swim—and she’s fearless—racing into the ocean waves with delight. It scares the death out of me. So I’ve begun taking her to bay beaches instead of ocean ones, whenever possible. With no undertows or monster waves in sight, I can let my daughter wade into the water without having to grasp tightly onto to her hand. Even better, I can relax a bit, myself. And while it isn’t always easy, I really need to relax about a few beach issues of mine.
For one, I love the beach—but I hate the messy aftermath. As an adult, I’m pretty careful about not getting coated in sand after I’ve been in the water. But of course, my carefree five-year-old runs into the ocean and then plops into the sand—even rolling around in it on occasion. In fact, the other evening, Jayda and I joined a group of single moms and their children at a beach outing, and about a dozen of these salt-water-coated kids (including my daughter) raced up and down the mountain of sand supporting the life guard station, sometimes literally rolling from the top down to the bottom, and giggling with glee. It was a joy to behold…and a nightmare to remove the sand—stuck on every inch and in every crevice of my daughter’s body. But I grinned and beared it. Which is just how I cope with Jayda’s shells—the ones she simply must bring home from the beach. I never know where to put these “treasures” or what to do with them. But I do remember that I shlepped home shells when I was a kid, and my mom tolerated it; so, too, must I.
And finally, there’s the loathsome sunscreen application—something I can’t ever relax my rules about; both Jayda and I are fair-skinned, and I’m vigilant about slathering both of our bodies with SPF 50. Jayda’s very tolerant of the first application or two, but when she’s in the midst of playing (and coated with a layer of sand already), it’s annoying for both of us when I have to interrupt her and spray on another coat of SPF. But I must. And no matter how many times I do it (which always seems to be at least twice as often as the other mothers with whom we’re spending time), it’s never enough. It’s barely July, and my daughter’s already sporting a bit of a tan. She looks gorgeous, but I shudder at the thought of damaging her beautiful, porcelain skin. Personally, I know how great the sun feels beating down on my shoulders and back—but I avoid it. I wear a cover-up over my tankini most of the time—as well as a wide-brimmed sunhat. I can’t be carefree about sun exposure.
But still, I do love the beach. I love running on the shore, wading in the ocean, curling up on a chair with the sound of the waves lulling me into a stress-free zone. But beach experiences like those are simply a fantasy these days. Instead, I’ve learned to love watching my sand-covered kid giggling infectiously as the ocean water coats her sun-soaked body; her screams of “awesome!” filling the air whenever she notices a wave in the distance; and her joyful smile when she covets a shell she’s discovered in the sand, and drops it in my lap while I’m eating my lunch (more often than not, on my lunch), exclaiming, “Look what I found, Mommy!” Because these days, loving the beach and loving Jayda go hand-in-hand….