I let Sophie fall in the ocean today. I feel terribly. I was holding her, helping her toss rocks into the waves, when we tripped and fell over another toddler, landing in a huge wave that caught us all by surprise.
I had been happy that Sophie had been running on the beach, picking up pebbles, and asking me to carry her to the water’s edge so that she could toss them in and admire their ripples. Sophie has been shy lately, in public. Yesterday, when we went to the beach, she would not step off my lap. She was afraid of sand, afraid to get dirty or wet, afraid of all the other people around there. So today, when she started laughingly running in the sand with a gorgeous pair of sister, ages three and five, I was happy. I have been trying to respect Sophie’s shy, cautious stage, but I also keep inviting her to enjoy the beach.
But playing with that three-year-old meant that it was hard to move when we had to suddenly run from a wave. The three-year-old and I got tangled up together and fell. I let Sophie down as gently as I could in the accident, but the wave washed over her. The three-year-old’s dad actually picked her up to keep the water from her face. She ended up with sand in her eyes, sand in her mouth, sand coating her hair, sand covering all her clothes, sand inside her earlobes.
I myself got my jeans and leather shoes soaked by ocean-water, but of course that doesn’t matter as much as poor Sophie, who wasn’t expecting this affront.
I rinsed her off in the chilly beach-showers, put on her reserve-clothes, and took her home for a warm mid-day bath, where she ate three bowls of cheerios in a row and then happily went down for a long nap.
Really, she was a trooper. As soon as I hugged her, she stopped crying, just shivered there with her blue lips, trying to spit the sand out of her mouth.
It’s not a disastrous accident, really. It’s the ordinary risk of playing at the edge of the ocean. But it could make Sophie revert back to shyness and sea-phobia, and it does make me re-assess all the risks I regularly expose Sophie to.
I have made the decision not to be a paranoid parent. I let her eat raisins — and I know that might sound mild, but other parents get shocked that I expose Sophie to a choking hazard. I let her pet dogs we meet, even though other parents tell me I should be worrying more about sudden dog-bites. I let her play at the beach.
And I think I’m going to keep on letting her play at the beach, but now I have to make sure we have a towel in the car.