Riding Waves

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By 6:43 this morning I wanted to divorce my children. In any given moment all they need to do is look at one another and the squabbling begins. Refereeing is my least favorite part of parenting without doubt.  It sours my whole day, which is unfortunate when it starts before the day begins.

This morning conflict set in before the second was one even awake. No innocent bystander, she had not-so-passive-aggressively reclaimed a stuffed puppy from him as he snored and sweated in deep slumber. When he couldn’t find said dog upon waking all hell broke loose. She then dared to chastise him for waking her with his emotional outburst! He, in turn, took it out me when I sequestered the pup. Being the bad guy is a crappy job. Why again did I choose this?

Over the weekend I took my daughter to visit a beloved teacher’s newly adopted baby. She had many questions, and I would expect no less. The best by far:

When you adopt a baby does it come with a list of things the baby needs?

I couldn’t help but laugh. Of course there is no list; in this case the baby was handed over with four diapers, a half-can of formula and no name. The situation is no different for birth parents: no user’s manual provided. Each day we wing it, and with each day come the waves of emotions as intense, continuous and unpredictable as day one.

I’m not going to pretend that the emotional highs outnumber the emotional lows. But I will say that the peaks–however few and far between–are what make this parenting thing worthwhile. Last Wednesday was case in point.

From the moment I retrieved the clowns from school they were happy, kind, patient and darling. Off to the beach we went so that my daughter could surf and my son could, as per usual, avoid the sand and water–a challenging task given the circumstance.

Then something completely unforeseen happened: he ran headlong into the water, no parent attached. He let the waves crash over him, enveloping his whole being. With unbridled joy he played in that ocean as if this, in Rapunzel’s words, was the best day ever! This beach boy persona was a side to him that I had never, never seen and now absolutely adore. All those cursed hours of freezing cold mom-and-tot swim lessons and even colder (and much heavier) koala-carries in the ocean were forgiven.

Blood, sweat, tears yield this golden moment. And to top it off, he begged to go to the beach over the weekend so that he could try surfing. Who better to teach him than his surfer sister, who on that magical day caught her first wave from the outside and rode it all the way in? Fast forward to Saturday. With an unprecedented collaboration and fellowship of trust, she gave him some pointers, placed him on that board, turned him to catch his first wave. Up he popped.

No matter that the magical Wednesday was capped off with a ginormous night-time pee accident.

Riding waves indeed.

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The Upshot of Swimming with Sharks

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Above tranquil water at the Cove hovered a healthy marine layer. June Gloom they call it. Where did the water, land and sky converge? Unknown, and I wasn’t going to swim far enough to find out. My mission, simple enough, was threefold: 1) Test out my cozy new wetsuit  2) Avoid marine life  3) Cross “tackling fear of open ocean swimming” off the Bucket List. The results: Done, Done and Done.

The swim itself was surreal–and much more enjoyable than anticipated. The water was warmer than expected (and no, I didn’t christen my wetsuit the old fashioned way as I wasn’t sure I’d keep it). The kelp forests were more abundant than envisioned. The sea life was more active than imagined. I noted plenty of fish and even (gasp!) a shark–though not a man-eating one I am certain. I did have a face-to-face encounter with a seal, also enjoying his morning exercise. Equally startled by one another we locked eyes and then amicably parted ways.

In hindsight it all sounds peaceful. But let me assure you that my thoughts prior to and upon entering the water revolved around seal diarrhea and shark attacks. I’ve witnessed the former and heard tales of the latter, and there I was electing to put myself in the middle of both. Images of these eliminated any lollygagging on my part. Get in, swim hard, get out.

Two weeks later I ventured out on a bright, sunny morning a few miles up the coast. Concerns of seal diarrhea were replaced with some anxiety about contending with an actual surf. I have raced in the nastiness that is the Hudson River and many murky, bacteria-laden lakes, but I’ve never had to break through the surf to reach the open water. New is what keeps it exciting (or so I tell myself).

Pummeled only once or twice I came to enjoy the challenge. Going with it rather than fighting against it, I finally relaxed. Eventually I emerged with fingers and toes–and everything in between–attached. I’ll even go back for more, especially now that my wetsuit has been officially christened.

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Birthdays and Deathdays

Birthdays are everywhere. We all have one and we love to acknowledge it, be it with hugs and gifts or cupcakes and cards. It’s easy to celebrate our beginnings, but how do we honor the day a life became no longer? Yesterday marked the second anniversary of my father’s passing, but really it’s been years since was lost to us. The last few of which  proved a lengthy good-bye to the wonderful man he had been, and his death gave us the permission to celebrate his very rich existence. Yet the grief lingered, and still creeps in from time to time, some days without warning.

Leading up to this day I wondered what I would feel, and I questioned what I could do to  make it significant. When a political, cultural or religious icon meets his or her end, the day might be sanctioned as one that’s recognized locally or globally. For the rest of us, the scale of appreciation for our legacy is much, much smaller. Perhaps only a handful of us turned our thoughts to my father, each in our own way.

I enjoyed a sunrise swim (I will always remember that I ran on my dad’s deathday with a dear friend who ironically lost her dad on that day years ago), and then tended to the usual morning routine. When finished, I made a small contribution to the Alzheimer’s Association, figuring that, hey, every little bit counts:  http://www.alz.org

Finally, I did what was most important in toasting my father: I bought a big, juicy chocolate chip cookie. Enjoying the serenity of the beautiful ocean view in Torrey Pines Preserve, I ate that cookie while honoring a truly exceptional person. After all, the greatest of men may have the humblest of pleasures!