I was given the unique gift of three weeks at the beach with my family this summer. We all love the beach, but it holds a very special place in my heart. I marvel at the awesomeness of the ocean, the power of the tides, and how the beach changes in form every day. I love sitting quietly and taking it all in. I love reading a book, then leaning back in my chair, closing my eyes, and nodding off as the sounds of crashing waves wash over me. I love walks down the beach, gazing at the extravagant houses and the unique people.
I love all of this and more; but that was not what I experienced. You see, we recently adopted three boys ages 4, 3, and 2, and times of peace and quiet seem to be a thing of the past, at least for now. Time for ‘self’ just seems ever elusive.
And so, week one began with great expectations of sleeping in, having some personal quiet time on the deck of the beach house, reading a good book, and all the other personal experiences I already mentioned.
But then reality set in.
At 6:00 a.m. the boys begin to wake, the two-year-old calls for Daddy: precious, yet untimely. We subdue the restless with Mickey’s Playhouse, Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Cheerios until they’ve had their fill. Next we begin beach preparation. We spray them down with sunscreen (thank God for spray cans), put on swimmie diapers just in time for one of the boys to have a less than solid poop )which, by the way, swimmies are not well designed for). We outfit them with their color-coordinated swim suits and shirts, strap on their flip flops, fill the cooler with drinks, the stroller and wagon with snacks, toys, towels, life jackets, chairs and a tent, and off we head for a ‘restful’ time on the beach.
After carting everything and everyone to the beach and laying claim to our territory, I am ready to sit and rest; but NO! The four-year-old wants to go in the water. I try to convince him through my refined power of persuasion that now is not the time, but his insistence and persistence win out. So up I rise, and hand-in-hand we make our way to the cold water. I like to gradually get used to the water, but the four-year-old pulls me in faster than I am comfortable with. How is it that the strength of a 35-lb. preschooler is greater than that of a 220-lb. man?
Bested, I finally immerse myself and take him in my arms. He loves it! He is courageous! We make our way beyond the breakers and begin to rise and fall with the waves. He wants me to let go so he can swim about freely in his life jacket. I concede. After many minutes have gone by, I am ready to return to the comfort of my beach chair. I suggest we go in, but once again I am met with opposition. My young warrior has yet to grow weary; he wants to stay and continue to battle the waves.
It was then that I clearly heard my spirit complaining. This was supposed to be a time for me to relax, for me to get away from the demands of work, for me to spend time with God.
And then I felt like I heard the voice of God saying, “Just enjoy your son as I enjoy my Son.”
Conviction flooded over me. I had become so focused on SELF that I failed to enjoy my son, not to mention the Son. I was seeking a fleeting joy over an eternal joy. At that moment, I stopped and just set my eyes upon the smiling face of my water warrior as he propelled himself over the waves. This was a precious and memorable moment that I almost missed because my focus was misplaced.
It’s hard being a parent of young, energetic boys, but I was reminded this summer at the beach that engaging with them is so much more fun and productive than trying to corral them and make them conform to a lifestyle that is peaceful and comfortable for me. These days will pass quickly, and before we know it, our boys will choose sleeping in or playing video games over time on the beach with us. This is a special phase of life where things are new and adventures abound for boys; we just need to enjoy our sons as the Father enjoys His Son!