Being unemployed for the first time since I was a teenager has taken some getting used to. I have attacked projects around the house like Charlie Sheen attacks…well, everyone, in order to stave off feelings of being incompetent. But projects I am able to do (read: projects that don’t cost me money) around the house are limited and those self-defeating thoughts still occasionally seep to the surface. Sometimes it would be nice to get away from all of it. So when I was invited to a day at the beach on Friday, I jumped at the opportunity.
My 5 year old Emma’s Kindergarten class was having a ‘Beach Day’ at school. It was their chance to have parents and relatives come in and eat lunch in shorts, sandals, sunglasses and beach towels (and minus the sand flies or sunburn).
I try my best to stay as involved with my kids’ activities as I am able to stay involved. I’ve coached sports I know nothing about. I have served popcorn for special events at the school. I’ve chaperoned dances. I have attended art shows on Friday nights and I have been an audience member at more recitals (where none of the participants remember the words to any of the dozen or so songs) than I ever would have thought I would have gone to before I had kids. Work has kept me from getting to everything but since I don’t have to worry about taking time away from that, I was happy to accept my invitation to ‘Beach Day’.
Friday, I got to the school, bagged lunch in hand, and the gaggle of parents, grandparents, and one aunt went in to the classroom. The kids lit up when we walked in. Quiet shouts of ‘Daddy’, ‘Mommy’, and ‘Grandmom’ instantly gave away our identities. I saw Emma and waved to her. She immediately turned shy (this from the girl who normally could give Lady Gaga a run for her money as a performer).
There was a congregation of kindergarteners in the middle of the room all completely invested in ‘Beach Day’. Sunglasses, Hawaiian shirts, shorts, flip flops, beach hats and ear to ear smiles as if they had just staked out a spot on Bodri Beach in Corsica. The teacher paired up relative with child. Emma and I grabbed a beach towel, our lunches, and headed out to the ‘beach’ attached to the classroom. Coincidentally, the ‘beach’ looked exactly like a grassy school courtyard. Emma was wearing a hat, tank top, shorts, and her sandals. For everyone’s sake, I passed on a Speedo and just went for sandals, jeans, and a tee shirt.
We sprawled out with a few others from her class and their parents (and the one aunt) and started lunch. We talked. We laughed. I listened to Emma talk to her friends in Kindergarten ramblings. She read from the writing journal she had been working on to me. I helped her with the straw for her juice box. I swapped my Pringles for her Frito’s (and her shyness melted away as the minutes went by).
The cement walkways in the courtyard were just as good as any sandy beach you could find. We didn’t need waves crashing, seashells, or sand castles to think of where we were as anywhere but the beach and we certainly didn’t need any of that to enjoy the time together.
The hour we had to spend with our kids at the “beach” came and went. It was time to go. We packed up our ‘beach’ stuff and I gave her a kiss, told her to be good and listen to her teacher, and said ‘goodbye’.
Sometimes as a parent, we get so caught up with all the responsibilities, stresses, and burdens of our lives; we forget how a simple lunch with our kids can mean all the difference to them and to us. I could see it in Emma’s eyes what it meant for me to be there and I’m sure if she had been looking, she would have seen what it meant for me to be there in mine while we spent a day at the beach.