Free to Be... at the Beach

Nora Of Nonlineargirl
August 29, 2008

The beach offers my daughter a freedom that she does not get at home. We live in a city, and Ada can not normally take off running the way she does on the sand. The physical freedom and lack of boundaries at the beach are such a rare experience that it takes Ada a day or more to convert from her more cautious "normal" self to the beach-combing kid she becomes. An energetic three year old, Ada embraces the beach with her whole body, running everywhere, digging holes and gathering and dumping buckets of water to make what she calls "tidal pools" in the sand. Exhausted by her adventures, her beach-house naps are epic.


Downed Tree


Although Ada collects leaves and twigs at home, the beach offers a treasure-hunting ground like no other. Over the course of the week, Ada collected dozens of shells, rocks, sticks and feathers. Her buckets were crammed with everything from crab claws abandoned by birds to parts of sand dollars, sea gull feathers and ocean-smoothed twigs. She tried to convince me to let her take home a piece of wood as large as a small dog, and was only convinced to leave it on the beach in exchange for three shells and a piece of sea glass.

running with bucket

That stick under her arm? We didn't take it home.


The beach means freedom for me too. I get to relax, with few or no demands other than those of a cheerfully demanding toddler. My family is often around and happy to occupy Ada. With my daughter's attention diverted, I have extra space to read, take a walk or just sit on the porch and stare at the waves. There is no expectation that things will be accomplished. Getting dinner together is enough to warrant a glass of wine and slice of pie. For most parents, there is ALWAYS something to be done: laundry, dishes, gardening, diapers, and on and on. At the beach, all that fades away, almost dragged out to sea with the receding tide.

hug on the beach

As a younger woman, I liked vacations that involved "doing"; museums, hikes, lessons of one kind or another. Although I still enjoy that kind of vacation, my ideal is now the restful beach trip that is more "being" than "doing". By the end of the week, I want to be calm and rested. If I have not mastered horseback riding, so be it. I can always learn to cook Indonesian food next year. For now, give me some sand, some waves and a beach blanket. I want to sit on the sand making castles and searching for sand dollars as my daughter runs, stretching her legs and feeling her freedom.


Nora parents, works and writes her blog ( from Portland, Oregon.

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