Images on the beach fluttered before me like leaves on a windy day—swimmers bobbing on the water, sunbathers reading books, and toddlers taking their first dip. I crossed my legs. Then I uncrossed my legs. When my seat felt like a rock, I shifted my hips.
After what seemed like hours, it dawned on me—I didn’t have to sit there. I’d never been a swimmer, but what was I, glued to the chair? Images of Han Solo frozen in carbonite flashed in my mind. One minute he was fighting for the freedom of the universe; the next, he was propped up against the wall like a Popsicle.
Carbonite. Chairs. Suddenly, they didn’t seem so different. Sure, my transformation from active adult to chair monitor had taken years instead of seconds, but timing didn’t seem like the determining factor in this disturbing development.
How had this happened? When had this happened?
My mind flew back over the hectic, challenging years of caring for three little ones under five. There had scarcely been time to look cross-eyed between changing diapers and keeping my Houdini’s from sneaking eggs from the refrigerator or taking rolly pollies to bed with them.
Maybe that was the crux of it. I’d gotten used to being the “watchful” eye. Supervising 24/7. I remember going to a nearby park with some other mothers to discuss our new playgroup.
“So what days should we meet?” somebody asked. “Wait—where’s Matthew?”
Her hand flew to her forehead as she scanned the play area. The rest of us clicked into gear and inventoried. “Let’s see—Jaimie’s in the sand. Brandon’s on the slide. Allen’s on the grass.”
We spread out, our heads bobbing and craning like anxious mother hens.
“Oh, there he is! Matthew’s under the slide.”
“Ah!” Everyone was safe and accounted for—at least for a few minutes. But nothing could be assumed for long. While we talked, I counted my children dozens of times. Not in a big way. Just under my breath. One, two, three. Allen, Steven, Jaimie. Just to be sure.
Day after day, it was exhausting.
Perhaps that’s where the craving for rest germinated. Rest while you can. Sleep while the baby sleeps. If there’s a chair, sit in it. A bench, claim it. A cement rim around the sandbox, be grateful.
Let the kids play. You rest.
But somewhere along the line, I’d stopped reevaluating my role as supreme supervisor and let myself slide into a watchful rut. Now, I sat up in my chair, half-giddy at the question that formed in my mind.
What did I want to do?
Rising like an ancient tree, I pried off my shoes and socks and ambled down to the water’s edge. The sand oozed warm and wet between my toes. I kneeled down, then scraped and patted until my sandcastle glistened like a mound of medieval wonder. Ta, da!
“Hey, kids!” I shouted.
“Awesome! Let’s make another one.”
We scraped and patted until it was time to go.
Today, the sandcastles we made are long gone, but I’m still “on strike”—and I intend to be for a long time. I’m having too much fun catching softballs, shooting baskets, and drawing on the sidewalk.
And you know what? So are my kids.