Sunday, August 17, 2014

Little Fish, Big Pond

I have always loved the ocean. As a child born and raised in a land-locked state, the ocean was something grand and unattainable, full of mystery and magic. Stories of mermaids filled my childhood and I often longed to be a dolphin. To be fair, I was 12 and I also longed to marry Tom Cruise. 

Right after Morgan turned one, we took Morgan to the Atlantic ocean for the first time. We were in New Jersey for the wedding of David's brother and I set her on the warm sand. I was prepared for this Kodak moment, snapping photo after photo as she toddled across the beach. Unfortunately, of the nearly 30 (yes 30) pictures I took, she refused to look at me. I called her name, I made loud noises, I offered to buy her a pony. Nothing. Instead, I now have over two dozen photos of her eating some bacteria-covered clam shell while her diaper filled with sand.

At one point, someone offered to take our family picture. Although Morgan was just one, I wanted to have that memory of our time on the beach, the memento that would capture perfectly that chapter in our lives. And now we do. One exasperated mother and one angry toddler who could have given a shit about the magic and mystery of the ocean.

Fast forward 5 years. We spent some time on the Oregon coast this summer, and I was eager to have another opportunity to share with Morgan something I loved so much. I am a much wiser mother now, and knew not to put much pressure on Morgan. For all of her wild ways, there is a part of Morgan that is very reserved. New experiences often overwhelm her; she needs time to assess her environment before she jumps in. Pushing too hard makes her push back, something I have learned the hard way over years of "encouragement."

As we made our way to the water, I watched her. Her steps slowed, her lips forming a small "o" as she struggled to comprehend the vastness before her. She stayed back, unwilling to get too close to the water's edge. After a few moments, she stepped closer, squealing as the waves began to wash over her toes. Within minutes, she was out as far as I was comfortable with, begging me to let her swim in her clothes. She was now as in love with the ocean as I had always been, and I was now petrified she was going to be swept out to sea.

We left after much protest, her clothes wet and sandy, her words breathless.

"Mom, I was fearless!!!"

"No, baby girl, you weren't. You were very afraid when we got here."

"But Mom, I still got in the ocean, and I did it by myself!!!"

"I know you did, and that makes you very brave."

"But how is that different than fearless?"

"Because being brave means doing something even when you are scared or afraid. And that is so much more important than being fearless."

Always be brave, my baby girl. And try to keep the sand out of your underwear next time.

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