I watched my brother in law and sister in law on the beach for the first time with their four month old daughter. They are new parents, navigating the waters as they embark on a brand new journey. They are experiencing all the chaos, sleepless nights, diapers, and overwhelming love you never knew you were capable of feeling that comes along with being a new mom and dad.
Then, there were families who had little ones toddling up and down the beach, chasing the edge of the waves, and eventually falling asleep under a tent. I could feel the sigh of relief coming from those parents as their little, angelic bundles of energy and curiosity finally rested peacefully for a while.
My husband and I fall into the next category with elementary aged children who are finally able to entertain themselves and each other. They can be trusted to venture slightly deeper into the water as long as some watchful eyes make sure they don't go too deep. For the first time in years, we were able to sit in our chairs and take it all in without being on edge every single second.
Eventually, we will be like the parents with teenagers who can allow their children to walk up and down the beach on their own. We'll have kids who are finally big enough to help lug coolers, boogie boards, chairs, and toys through the hot sand - only we won't need all that stuff anymore.
I hope that, one day, we will experience the beach as grandparents, too. We'll watch our children go through all of these phases with their own children. We will happily take over the supervision duties for just a while to give the new parents a break and we will delight in all of the nuances of babies once again, but from a very different perspective.
Just like the waves of the ocean, the waves of parenting can, sometimes, be fairly small and calm. At other times, though, they are big. They come crashing down on us and all we can do is hold our breath and tread the waters as we wait for the storm to pass. The tides ebb and flow as we ride the waves, holding on and hoping to survive. All the while, the magnitude, ferocity, and serenity of what we experience is simply breathtaking and mind boggling.