I haven’t written much lately. The summer of 2016 has been filled with activities and projects that have dominated my time and consumed my creative energy. It’s all good … just busy.
Much of what I write reflects observations I make and my feelings and thoughts about them. And though I haven’t taken time to commit pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard), my voyeuristic nature hasn’t been idle. So yesterday, I sat outside on my deck catching rays — pencil and paper in hand — and wrote.
I’ve been to the beach.
Yes, I’ve recently returned from our annual up north trip, spending seven glorious days in Elk Rapids where my morning coffee view included a beautiful beach and the crystal blue water of Lake Michigan. I spent each day of my vacation on that beach, watched every sunset and dug my toes into the soft warm sand every chance I could.
It was a good vacation. I know it was a good vacation because when I got home it took a couple days to scrub the sand out from my toes and skin.
Each morning, I was the first one up, settling onto an Adirondack chair on the side porch of our Victorian rental to drink my coffee and do some observing — or as my Aunt PJ would say ” do some noticin’.”
I “noticed” many families with young kids on the beach, on the playground or in the grassy picnic area nearby. As I have a teenage son and preteen daughter, I am well aware of the fleeting nature of those years with young children clamoring for my attention and calling out “play with me mama.” Though it may seem they will never end and you will never find a moment’s peace — especially when you just sat on your lounge chair and you hear that call to play on the sand, climb on the jungle gym or splash with them in the lake, they really aren’t limitless. One day, they will stop asking. One day before you know it, they will prefer their “thing” to time with mom or dad.
So, as I sat on the porch in the mornings and then later on the beach with my book, I heard those same youthful requests. But, instead of parents racing to the waves for a splash or digging in the sand to create an epic sand castle, I noticed a lot more parents scrolling near their kids than strolling with them.
Now, when my kids were younger, cell phones were for talking on and were typically relegated to the side table on the hotel room or — in early years — a bag in the car. Texting and surfing the web with Google or Apps was unheard of. But, even then, distractions and denials were available. I mean, it was my vacation too … I needed some down time. But I picked my moments for peace and chose to say yes to sand pizzas, making trees for castles and splashing in the waves too.
As I watched, there was a disturbing number of grown ups paying more attention to their screens then what they were strolling by. Too many dads on calls. Too many moms checking Facebook. Too many adults walking their pets while scrolling Twitter.
Guess it’s a sign of the times. But it made me wonder … What are our priorities nowadays? For me, I’d rather experience the moment than “Check In” or Tweet about it. As Aerosmith put it: I don’t wanna miss a thing.
When the day comes that your playful son who used to be an early riser and watch the sun rise by your side prefers to sleep in, hang out on his hammock or go off on a bike ride by himself and your social daughter opts to draw, play Minecraft or FaceTime her friends in her vacation home bedroom, will you experience a Harry Chapin moment with Cat’s In The Cradle running through your mind? Or, will you build those sandcastles and bury your son in the sand during the moments available to you?
As I strolled the beach with my daughter and tried to hit the ball during a game of beach volleyball with my son and his friend, I was grateful for the moments we shared over the years with the sand between our toes. I am grateful they still like to come to the beach and that every summer my son and I have our photo taken at one of the sunsets. I’m grateful he looks forward to this week and plans for that photo with me. I’m grateful my daughter always joins me for that final morning walk on the beach. Oh, my moments with them are different than the days when they were “small.” But we still enjoy our time. I planted the seed that “Connecting” is important. And I continue to make the most of every moment that comes along with them.
I prefer Strolling to Scrolling. With my head bowed too long over my phone, I just might miss something. The best moments can be fleeting. One day, the sand toys won’t make that annual trip to the beach. Make sure they’ve been well used before that happens.