Last year, we vacationed for a week at Ocean City, MD. It was the first trip to the beach for our kids. S figured out the ocean quickly, as he figures out everything physical, negotiating the waves, and diving into the surf by the end of the first day. J, on the other hand, hated the way the waves moved, and never got comfortable enough to even wade in the shallowest edges of the water.
Today, I took the boys to the beach on my own, as the rest of our party had various other plans. We started out at the “fish” playground, climbing up the play structure (in the blazing sun), and swinging on the swings. S and I were dripping sweat, and yearning for a dip in the ocean, but J wanted to stay at the playground (possibly a little anxiety about the ocean playing a role here?), but we finally managed to move from playground to beach.
S ran into the waves and immediately was swimming out to the farthest buoy marking the swimming area. And J was willing to come into the water with me. I was anxious about how I was going to manage two boys with very different supervision needs, but I needn’t have worried. S was bobbing in the waves confidently, and, within about 5 minutes, had made friends with two boys, clearly brothers, who were a little older than S, but they all swam well together. J initially ventured into the shallow surf, saying “I not afwaid”, and we worked our way into surf. He was delighted with the gentle waves, until they started getting bigger, and we got hit by one that was a little taller than me. Our heads got knocked together, and he ended up in tears, and we worked our way back out of the waves to the sand.
J then played there with the four buckets that we brought, asking me to fill each one with water, and then he mixed in some sand, and shells, and pronounced that these were for the dogs and cats on the beach to eat/drink from! While we were working on this project, I kept one eye on S who was involved with his new friends, and having a blast. At one point, he came running up for his boogie board, and I asked him who he was playing with. His reply “My new friends!”. I asked, “Do you know their names?”, thinking that he would answer as he usually does in these situations “I dunno”, but, instead, he said with authority “There’s Matthew, and he’s 10 years old, and Jacob, and he’s eight years old”. And I said “Did you tell them your name?”, and he said, “Yes, S and I’m five years old….almost six!” and off he ran to rejoin his buddies. I was blown away, as, in previous similar situations, he never manages to find out the names of the kids he finds to play with.
Over the course of the next few hours, S played happily with his new friends, and J ventured with me into the ocean, got freaked by the larger waves, and retreated to the beach to play with his buckets. We came back to the house for lunch exhausted and happy, and both boys ate two grilled cheese sandwiches apiece, with chips and juice!!
Addendum: The following day, Dad brought them to the beach, and they met up with the same two brothers, Matthew and Jacob, and S played with them for another 4-5 hours!! J didn’t do quite so well at the beach, but the surf was a bit wilder, so he probably had reason to be anxious.