Buckets and Spades

20 Mar 2021

I went for a walk this morning. 9am on a Sunday - me, the dog and my swimming bag. I wasn’t sure if I was going to brave the Irish Sea. It was cold and windy but I could see a little bit of blue sky.  Perhaps the sun would shine through? I parked the car and walked along by the Harbour on the way to the beach. The tide was out. The Harbour was full of sand, little pools of sea water and a few families. Parents, mainly in their 30s, with young kids, buckets and spades and a few dogs. The children’s high-pitched voices reached me:

‘Is that a crab, Mum?’

‘Help me build a sandcastle, Dad.’

‘He pushed me.’

‘Holly did a poo…’ (thankfully a dog, not a child!)

There was so much playfulness. Curious children finding colourful stones and crabs’ legs and building castles of sand only to trample on them minutes later. I could hear the parents’ voices joining in, playing make-believe and promising ice-cream for lunch. 

A stab in my tummy as my dog cocked his leg for the seventeenth time. What was this feeling in my gut? Jealously? Sadness? Loss? My favourite times were when my children were that age. That playful, curious, wonderful age where every shell and stone, creature and flower, had a story. When they held my hand as we paddled in the sea and bravely waded in deeper. When I taught them how to swim, how to make a daisy chain, how to draw their names in the sand with their feet, how to crush crisps in between two pieces of bread to make the best ever sandwich, how to gently pick up a starfish and place it back in the water and how never to pick up a jellyfish and how to mix chocolate and rice crispies to make the yummiest treats and… I miss those days. 

When they got grumpy, I’d know they were tired or hungry. We’d have a snack or a snuggle in my bed where I’d read stories of mermaids and flying cars and they’d ask for more funny voices until they yawned themselves to sleep, their little arms up beside their faces, so beautiful, so trusting. I miss those times so much, my heart aches. 

Now they are teenagers and I love them no less. But it’s like someone has extinguished the wonderment. The stage has been turned around and we can see how the magician did her tricks. It’s still called magic but the illusion has been shattered.

They are becoming Young Adults. And, of course, it’s perfectly natural that they take a step forwards while I take a step back. They still need me - teenagers are extremely vulnerable in a very different way to smaller children. I must keep a close eye on them but from a distance. 

The waves were high but I was feeling brave. My dog sat on my towel as I waded into the sea. Just as I immersed my body into the cold, beautiful water, the sun came out from behind a cloud. A little ray of hope. I swam. The nearby children played with their buckets and spades. My teenagers slept. 

Salt Water Mum x

A Moodscope member.

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