Having a child has heightened my awareness in several ways. The predominant pleasure of this awareness is the experience of discovery. We were in her wading pool on a very hot day, and honey bees flew around us to drink some water. Rather than get nervous and try to bat them away, we watched them. I did not know that bees carry their own little straw with them! I was fascinated to see one busily using its proboscis to suck up drops of water. Have you ever really seen — really watched — a honey bee from about five inches away? They are quite intricate.

Claire’s attention is not limited to the miniscule, though. She loves planes; they are huge and loud and scary and exciting. There is a Target store close to the airport that happens to sit in the path of landing planes. We arrange ourselves in the parking lot on the sidewalk under a little tree and watch them approach, getting lower and louder, until they roar overhead. I’d never noticed before that UPS and FedEx planes are enormous. I love how big they are. I can’t explain exactly why, except that you need to see one hanging right over your head a few hundred feet up to really appreciate their size.

Another form of awareness is a heightened sense of caution. I took Claire to the beach last Thursday. She’d only gone once before when she was 13 months old; it was October, and she wasn’t really interested. So I took her to Half Moon Bay, since that was the first beach that came to mind. Well, it’s not altogether inviting. The beach is very steep, and the water becomes quickly deep, so the wave action is intense. There was a sign:


I felt the tug of dread in my gut, but we went to the waves. I dismissed the feeling, but I kept an eye out; I could see the tide was coming in. Claire was thrilled to jump in the waves (we were at the very edge just getting our toes wet), but by the time we were done her arms looked like they were sunburned from the intensity of my grip. I could only tolerate the tension for about 15 minutes. I mocked myself for being a Nervous Nellie. I thought, It’s not like the sea is personified and is going to snatch my child away. But it felt that way to me. I wanted to call my parents and ask them how they’d had the courage to let us play at all the beaches we camped at when I was a kid. I’m amazed they didn’t lose one of us! After awhile she said she was done with the waves, so we went up the berm and made sand castles, but I still felt nervous, and Claire was getting cranky. So we went to the car to change into dry clothes and have lunch, after which we fed seagulls.

It was time for her nap and she was definitely tired, but since she’d catnapped on the way to the beach I wasn’t sure if she’d sleep. I decided to drive down Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, figuring it would be pretty for me and give her two hours to nap. However, she thwarted the plan. She wouldn’t fall asleep. By the time we got to Santa Cruz she said she wanted to get out and walk, so I stopped at another beach: Natural Bridges. This one was much flatter, with calmer wave action, and was populated by dozens of people. She chased seagulls, jumped in waves (with me holding her still, but with less suction that felt as though it might knock me down), and made more sand castles. A kind lady said hello and took our picture. After about 45 minutes of this, I had to lug her up the hill to the car and drive home. She fell asleep on the way for half an hour. Not enough nap, too much stimulation — she was a cranky tired kid by bedtime. But we had fun. On the way I noted many other state beaches that were flat, so we’ll be going to those next time.

natural bridges beach, santa cruz, ca

I will say this: since having a child, I’ve made a concerted effort not to indulge my imagination regarding all the horrors that could befall Claire. That way lies madness. I also believe that manufacturing things to worry about distracts us from being aware of real threats and risks, because by worrying we feel we are doing something constructive and are bound up in all those thoughts, becoming too distracted to pay attention to what is real. I’m reading Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker (his Gift of Fear is worthwhile too), in which he recommends honoring the intuition signals the body gives us when we sense danger. When I saw another sign at Half Moon Bay (below) after we’d gone up for lunch, I realized that my discomfort was entirely justified, and rather than discount myself, I’m going to heed it; we’ll not be going back to that beach. (I also found an article about a tragedy on June 30 eight miles north of Half Moon Bay. Eeeegad!)

not so child-friendly

There is much more to tell about Claire, but this post is long enough, and her nap will be ending soon.

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One Comment on “Observations”

  1. gerry rosser Says:

    I sometimes have to flog my brain away from thinking about what could happen to our little one.

    Some beaches are scary.