The plan was simple. Go to the beach, enjoy the serenity of the ocean, play in the waves, collect shells, and try to spot birds that we’d studied in the A Bird’s World exhibit a few days ago at the Museum of Science. How quickly plans change when you have young children and their minds are full of curiosity.
Other than the seagulls, we didn’t see one identifiable bird, but we did do some unexpected learning. After several trials we learned the consistency of wet versus dry sand needed to make a castle tower which didn’t instantly collapse, and I found out how wonderful of a workout building a sandcastle could be. We got into a conversation about sand particles that ventured into an explanation of quicksand that quickly became a discussion about drowning.
Yes, my girls are three and five, but I have always been completely honest with them about existence, and they know that all life involves death. They are very curious about death and I tell them what I can when they ask questions. I know that things are scarier when you don’t understand them, so I figure it’s best to just be candid (on an age-appropriate, scientific level).
Talk about death lead to lots of hypothetical questions which I answered for a good amount of time before finding them redundant. We searched along the beach for shells and discovered dead crabs and sand fleas, we picnicked at the state reservation’s playground and I had to beg the girls to eat, then had to motivate them to go back down to the beach. The waves were terrifying to Terra, no matter their size, and she clung to my neck the entire time we were in the water. Amara found the water enticing until a large wave knocked her under and she took a panicked breath beneath. “How can waves be so strong?” Amara asked me. “It’s just water!”
The day was simple. The weather was perfect, we enjoyed the ocean, the conversation was flowing, and we left the beach a more unified team. So much for the hours we’d spent at the Museum of Science memorizing the features of birds that we’d planned on seeing. Sometimes it’s better when things don’t go as expected. Everything came together perfectly.