Posted: Jul 22, 2013 8:00 AM
 
The ocean has always comforted me, but I've never understood why. Vacationing with two toddlers helped me understand.

For 10 days, our family relaxed and vacationed on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. Thunderstorms crashed each day's agenda, and then finally the sun wrestled free and seared the earth and our skin.

When finally we made it to the beach, I realized why I feel so drawn to the ocean and why its crashing, pulsating constancy soothes me.

The Husband had created the perfect beach haven for us: a tent shaded the kids, and baby jail kept them within a five-foot square radius (our "baby jail" is that multi-colored must-have fencing that keeps toddlers confined, visible and safe).

As he sipped cold beer and chatted with friends, I retreated to the water's edge, comfortable in a sinking chair where I urged the waves to cool my toes as I read more of a book in one sitting than I have in months.

The ocean kept calling for my attention, though. Waves crashed in as their predecessors lapped and then curled gently outward, calming their angry, thrashing partner.

Ingredients for peace, I thought. One struggles to thrash and make noise, pounding to be heard, while the other gracefully soothes the frantic energy, lulling it into complacency and even docility.

Reflections of my children

In some ways, their embrace of the turbulent water excited me and stretched my chest with pride. In other ways, it frightened me and made me pull each back more tightly.

I thought about Charlie and Mary Emma. I had worried about each child's reaction to the ocean, the sand and the waves — and each had surprised me. Charlie has special needs and, sometimes, a tendency toward sensory issues. But no. Charlie wanted to race toward the water and embrace it whole, no matter the cost.

Emma is my "typically developing" child, defiant and stubborn and — oh, wait, those adjectives describe them both.

At first, Emma hated even the sensation of sand touching her feet. By week's end, both stretched and pulled me toward the ocean and beyond my sense of safety.

In some ways, their embrace of the turbulent water excited me and stretched my chest with pride. In other ways, it frightened me and made me pull each back more tightly.

Ebb and flow: the lifeblood of parenthood. Chasing Charlie, indeed.

Read more about parenting a child with special needs

3 Best lessons from my 3-year-old with Down syndrome
Imagining a future for my son with Down syndrome
Why I won't apologize for my child

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