My response to the exercise: pick one photo you love from this summer and give yourself 15 minutes to write a reflection on it.
It was a gorgeous day on the shores of the Outer Banks, NC. Day seven of our vacation; the last day. I was sitting in my beach chair next to two of my dearest friends drinking cheap, too-sweet wine from the snack shack up by the parking lot. The kids, seven of them in total, fanned out around us. A couple were in the water with their boogie boards, a couple digging in the sand, a couple digging for M&Ms in the trailmix. Every 30 seconds or so one of them would come over to the three chairs to whine about their brother stealing their shovel or to ask for help with a towel.
In between the stop-bys, it was heaven. My portable bluetooth speaker hung from my chair playing the beach party playlist and I was reading "The Execution of Noa P. Singleton" by Elizabeth Silver. Just two weeks later I would actually get to meet the author and I was thrilled about the prospect. My kids happened to be among the eldest of this gaggle of children, which meant that I was actually reading my book, one to two pages at a time. After many years of barely sitting on the beach, this was exhilarating. Just being near my girlfriends made my heart sing since busy schedules meant getting together back at home a challenge.
As one of my friends sat back down in her chair and sighed, Ahhh, this is awesome!, I thought back to my own childhood, where we went to the lake, instead of the beach. My mom was also with her best friend on these vacations, similar to our annual Outer Banks trip. Each morning, after coffee and reading on the porch, my mom and her bestie would head down to the dock to set up for the day. They "owned" the two lounge chairs on the lower dock. The kids were allowed to use the lounge chairs on the upper deck. I don't think any of us kids ever even attempted to sit in a mom chair. The five of us kids, all girls, occupied ourselves all day with little involvement from the moms. Our Barbies went bungee jumping off the high deck, we rock-jumped, sailed, created plays and performances. We made our own lunch and our own fun. It was simply understood that the moms were not to be bothered while they were in their chairs.
This was a pretty stark contrast to my own vacation where us moms packed enough food for an army and were constantly jumping up at the whim of our kids. My own kids were definitely at the age where they could be doing more for themselves. Gosh, was I more of a helicopter mom than I realized? Was I setting my kids up to be entitled?
My thoughts were interrupted by my nine year old, Carly, who bumped the big red gummy bear float into my chair and asked me to go into the water with her. I'd said no a lot of times in the past week. Despite loving the beach I don't have a fondness for going in the water. I almost shouted, The moms are not to be disturbed right now! Instead, I paused for a moment, remembered it was our last day and thought about how I try to say yes to her when I can, since she gets so many no's.
Ok, let's do it, I said and followed Carly and the gummy bear float towards the water, the sound of my beach playlist fading behind me.