Me: “Gabby! Let’s go see the ocean!”
Me: “But Gabby, it’s the ocean! You’ve never seen it! It’s beautiful!”
Gabby, exasperated: “MOMMY. I AM IN THE PUDDLE RIGHT NOW. I DON'T HAVE TIME TO SEE THE OCEAN.”
I admitted defeat. If you know Gabby, you know there is no "showing this girl the ocean". And after I mourned the loss of my Instagram-perfect photo opportunity of a three year old's first glimpse of something, we made our way clumsily down that dune to the sea shore and took 45 minutes to set up tents and chairs and slather on SPF 8000, set out blankets and towels and beach toys and snacks and diapers and juice boxes and books and sunglasses and settled into our approximately ten minute window of actual ocean-side time that we would have before the baby started wailing and demanded that we return to the beach house for naps and our evening vacation routine of having never ending conversations with the kids about all of the places they have sand stuck.
Making the most of my ten minutes, I sent Nick and the kids down to the water and laid under our beach umbrella feigning relaxation while trying to nurse and keep my baby out of the sun and the sand out of his mouth and my boob out of other people’s vacation photos. The beach was crowded and I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation that the group of young 20-somethings next to us were having in that the-entire-world-is-my-oyster (beach metaphor #2) way that only the young can have. They were discussing summer jobs and life choices and one girl was explaining how she is nannying part time for a family for the summer, watching the two children while the parents work.
Beach Girl: “They pay me well but it’s hard work. I am so tired when I get home.”
Beach Girl’s Friend: “What do you have to DO?”
Beach Girl: “I have to make the kids food, and feed them, and clean up. Sometimes I have to pick up the house. And I take them to the park and to their classes and activities and I even took them to the doctor once.”
Beach Girl’s Friend: “Wow. It’s like you are their Mom.”
Beach Girl: “I know, right? It’s like somewhere along the way I became a mother of two. It’s exhausting." (takes a long slug of her beer) "I think I might ask for a raise.”
At this I can’t help but snort, and Luca looks up from nursing, and I flash the entirety of Cape Cod proper.
I looked over. Beach Girl was sitting there on the beach in a very small bikini with a flat stomach and no stretch marks. She had no children in sight and SHE WAS DRINKING A BEER AT 11:00 IN THE MORNING. She had friends around her who were also available to lounge on the beach and she apparently had the expendable funds to pay for a beautiful designer beach bag and she had no wrinkles or grey hairs and she looked RELAXED, and how could she not? Her entire life was open in front of her and she could spend it having long, lazy conversations in the sunlight about what she wanted to do with it as if what she wanted was all that mattered.
Yeah, she was clearly NOT the mother of anyone.And for a second, I was jealous of her. Beach Girl and her dreams and her morning beers reminded me how there is this whole ocean of life and yet, like Gabby, I often can't even see it for my own puddle. And I can’t spend a lot of time looking for it or at it or worrying about it because whatever is sitting two feet in front of my face at that moment demands all the available free space I have in my brain so that I can feed it or cook it or clean it or teach it or wipe its butt, and more importantly so that I know which one of these things is the thing that actually needs to be done and I don't screw it up.
Where I too once spent my lazy mornings ruminating on all my possible futures, I now spend them running in these little mom-shaped circles all day, maddeningly doing and undoing these often menial daily tasks and having the same conversations and adjusting my expectations down to the point where surviving is an admirable goal. There are days where I don’t even lift my gaze from this work and I need to remind myself to take a breath, AND I DON'T HAVE TIME TO SEE THE OCEAN RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I AM IN THE PUDDLE, MOMMY.But my ten minutes were almost up and we had a dune to climb back up so I tucked my boob back in and shook some of the sand out of my spaces and looked down the beach to find Gabby, who had of course traded her puddle for all of the majesty of the ocean and was gleefully playing that classic game of trying to outrun the waves, squealing with delight EVEN WHEN SHE FAILED.
When our ten minutes were up and after we packed and I caught my breath from carrying 25 pounds of baby back up that dune, the family piled back into the car I took a little detour, pausing to splash my own way through that (admittedly impressive) puddle.
And it was awesome.