Friday, October 11, 2019
Just so you understand where my attitude was that day, lest anyone read this post and mistakenly think I'm proud of myself.
Ron and I were away for our annual getaway. It was our last day and I told him I was going to sit on the beach all day. Since it's off season, it wasn't crowded and I loved the peace and solitude.
But as I walked the path to the beach, I began to notice the tide. What the crap is this? It was the highest I'd seen it this entire time. It was washing up past the rental chairs, which are generally placed beyond where the tide reaches. Therefore, there was very little "beach" before it turned into rushing water and waves, so I was forced to park my chair near other people, and it was an inconvenience to everyone, meaning me.
I was being a brat. Hang on, I get worse.
The lady to my right had a voice that could best be described as "squak." Not even sure that's a real word, but it's the only one that suited her voice as she talked loudly into her cell phone. You have to be loud to drown out the sound of crashing waves. Squak had the gift.
The only thing that made it worse was the lady to my left. Beach Mom. She was there with her husband and many children. I couldn't tell the exact ages, but her youngest was an infant, the one above her was a small toddler, and the stair stepped height of the rest of them led me to believe she's been pregnant for the past 12 years straight. Beach mom was entertaining herself in the ocean while dad held the baby and the rest of the kids played in the water. None of whom were wearing flotation devices. Tsk Tsk.
See, I'm the mom who specializes in worst case scenarios, so I had our kids in flotation devices before we ever stepped out of the condo, because preventative actions based on fear is my parental style of choice. Normally, I'd say 'Don't judge me' here, but since I sat there judging her, I forfeit that right.
When she wasn't boogie boarding or flipping her hair upside down in the water, she was screaming at her older kids to stop letting the current carry them away from her.
Side bar. One does not "let" the ocean current do anything. The ocean current does what it damn well pleases. I speak from experience as a woman whose husband is surprised when he gets carried down the beach by the current every.single.time.
Beach Mom stopped to nurse the baby, then she lay the sleeping baby down beside her on a towel under the umbrella. Under normal circumstances, there'd be no problem with that. But on this day, the tide just kept rising. I thought to myself what a terrible idea that was to lay the baby down there, but her parenting style obviously differs from mine and that doesn't make her's wrong, except yes it does, said me, who sat back silently observing Beach Mom's choices on my left, while also wondering how anyone could stay on the phone that long with a woman who squaked on my right.
I'd long jumped over the line from brat to b*tch.
Judge me. I deserve it.
Just as Beach Mom began assembling a kite, a quick rushing wave washed over the baby. Dad pulled her up quick, but she'd swallowed a bunch of water. Mom turned her over, pounded her on her back, water came gushing out of her mouth, and the baby must've started breathing ok, because she handed her back to her husband. I couldn't hear what she said, but she was clearly not happy with him. And then she went back to getting her kite in the air. Crisis averted.
Squak was finally off the phone and Beach Mom had successfully launched her kite, so I closed my eyes. And then I heard Beach Mom screaming, 'GET HIM!' My eyes popped open to see the toddler being carried away by the current, tumbling head over heels in about a foot of water. Dad still sat holding the baby, Beach Mom was screaming and trying frantically to wind the kite back in, while the older kids ran through the water trying to catch up to their little brother. A man down the beach saw what was happening and jumped in ahead of the situation to catch him, but the brothers caught him before he got there. The toddler was soaking wet and obviously terrified, but he was ok. Another crisis averted.
Except, when the kids brought their little brother back to their mom, she snapped. Screamed how irresponsible they are, threatened to end their vacation, and ordered them to clean everything up, and get back to the condo. Fighting off tears, they did as they were told. Husband included. As the toddler passed me, eyes down, I asked him if he was ok. He wouldn't look at me. As each of the older kids passed me, eyes down, I told them they did a great job catching up to their brother like that. They wouldn't look at me.
After watching her defeated children walk away, my head turned back to see her standing on the beach alone, trying to untangle her kite string, and I knew I was in it now. I know things sometimes. I knew I was going to walk up to her and I knew I was going to say something. But because I don't know everything, I didn't know what I was going to say and I didn't know if I was about to go viral on a youtube video titled 'Beach Moms catfighting in a tangle of kite string.'
I silently called out a quick 'God help me' and then I stood up and approached her.
Let me be perfectly clear here. I take ZERO credit for anything that happened from this point on. I just finished admitting to you my shameful attitude that day. That, I own. All I can say is that the Holy Spirit is real within those who invite Him in and He reserves the right to overhaul your mouth. It might've been my little prayer for help or He might've interceded regardless, but I heard myself ask her, "Are you okay?"
Wait. What'd I just say?!? Is SHE okay? Of course she's not okay! She just spent the day making a festival of terrible choices and then blamed her husband and children for all of them! Why didn't I open with THAT?!
Then I stood completely silent while she vented. She told me everything that had gone wrong that week, that month, that year, and maybe her whole life. It poured out of her like she'd just been waiting for someone to ask her that simple question. Are you ok? And I didn't say a word while she answered. I stood there quietly absorbing it. All of her unspoken pain. All of her unspoken fears.
Flash in my mind to Jesus, kneeling there beside me, using His finger to write my sins in the sand.
Wait a minute. Beach Mom is me. And I wonder, if Beach Mom might be you, too?
We all just desperately crave a short reprieve from the world inside our head where we bottle up all of our fear, pain, stress, anxiety, and all of the things we shield from our family...until something finally tips us over the edge and we explode on the very people we love the most and the ones we work tirelessly to protect. This woman just wanted to fly a kite, dammit, and I sat there focusing on a spec of sand in her eye with a piece of driftwood sticking out of mine. God, forgive me.
When she finally stopped talking, I asked, "Are you done?"
She looked a little startled by that question but she said, "Yes."
Then I asked, "Can I say some things to you from a place of love?"
She squinted at me confused but she said, "Yes."
And so I said, "You just poured all of your frustration out on me. I willingly accept it. Now you need to leave it all here on the beach with me. Don't take any of it with you when you go back to the condo and apologize to your family. You're a good mom, but you got scared. Tell them you're sorry and explain to them that your anger came from a place of fear. Then I want you to praise each and every one of them. Praise your husband for pulling your baby from the wave. He saved her. Then praise each of your kids for saving their brother. Because they did. You don't want this scene to be the lasting memory of a family vacation."
FYI; Love doesn't throw fuel on a blazing ember. Love doesn't help a sister throw her husband under the bus. Love doesn't agree with someone simply for the sake of agreeing with them. Love is truth. Sometimes love is hard truth. And I was standing there receiving a dose of my own right along with her.
I waited to see if she'd hit me for what I said, but she burst into tears and hugged me.
My eyes widened. Oh boy. She's hugging me what's happening we're in bathing suits and ohhhh noooo, here comes Squak. She quietly handed Beach Mom a wine cooler and lo and behold, Squak started to grow on me, too.
We stood there talking for another half hour...these 2 women and me, the most annoying woman on the beach. I'm pretty sure Jesus would've written that in the sand, too.
Before I walked away, I pointed to my chair sitting alone on the beach and said, "One day, you're going to be sitting there by yourself like me..."
She said, "...and wondering what my children are doing, right?"
I answered, "Nope. You'll be witnessing a young mom trying to hold it all together until she can't anymore and you're going to remember this day, ask her if she's okay, and offer her a wine cooler before it's too late."
She said, "God sent you to me today."
God sent us to each other, actually.
Then a teary eyed Squak initiated a group hug...oh lawd, Squak...and she said, "Wanna meet back here again tomorrow?"
Lady, not even Jesus would ask me to do that right now.