Tag Archives: vacation

I Teach Her What to Fear

Vivi stood at the edge of the sand bar, tugging at her hair and shrieking:


I, already knee-deep in the low tide channel between the sand bar and the beach, turned back and watched her hysteria with my mouth hanging open.

“Baby! What are you talking about? This is the same water we walked across to get out there. You’ve been swimming in it all week. Come ON.”

A dad in a red UGA cap waded between us and asked me out the side of his mouth, “Is she alright?” I mouthed back, “D-R-A-M-A.” He chuckled and kept on going.

My daughter was beside herself with fear about stepping into the ocean water. Why? Jellyfish.

She wailed and howled and begged me to come back. She ran towards the King and Prince in hopes that the land bridge was solid. Nope.

I hollered across the 20 yards that separated us: “Honey, it’s the TIDE–I can’t do anything about it. Even if I walk back that way, we’ve got to get back to the beach through this water. There’s no other solution. I hear you, but you’re going to have to get in the water. It’s only going to get deeper the longer you wait.” She stomped and screeched and cried.

Not sure which of those tactics convinced her, but she finally started a shaky walk to me. I took her hand and we made it to the beach together…ALIVE.

What. The. Hell. This kid as grown up on that beach and in that water. Why now?

An hour earlier, we had left our stuff in the sand and waded over to the giant sand bar on East Beach at St Simons Island. We walked to the farthest tip of the sand bar, right out into the Atlantic. She found a hermit crab and named her Crustina. We put her in a shallow tide pool and watched how quickly she could scuttle around. Vivi dug a channel between two pools so Crustina could spread out. We came up with names for her crabby friends. We reminisced about a few years back when Vivi found her friends, Conchy and Nyquisha.

Then I looked down into the clear water of the tide pool and spotted a jellyfish, about 5 inches long. I showed Vivi how to see the clear jellyfish by looking for its shadow on the sand. We found another one in the same pool. As the tide waters rose around the edges of Crustina’s pool, we watched how the jellyfish moved and ate and even shook off some sand that one of us accidentally dropped on them.

Cannonball jellyfish on St Simon's Island sand bar

Cannonball jellyfish on St Simon’s Island sand bar (look for it right above the shadow)

But time and tide wait for no one, so with pink shoulders and wind-tangled hair, we scooted Crustina to the seaward edge of her pools and waved goodbye to the jellies. As we walked along the beach side of the sand bar in search of the easiest crossing point, I saw a REAL jellyfish in the shallows–one about a foot long, pinkish, with feathery tentacles fluttering behind it.

“Now this is the kind you don’t want to touch, even if you see them washed up on the beach. I once fell off of a jet ski in the middle of Chesapeake Bay and got one of these wrapped around my leg.”

“Did you have to go to the hospital???’

“No, Aunt Beth rubbed Adolph’s seasoning salt on it and made some pina coladas. It quit stinging after a while.”

And not two minutes later I started into the water to make my way back to our pile of towels and flip flops on the beach and Vivi started her meltdown.

Because of the jellyfish I had shown her. Not the goofy little cannonball jellyfish in the tide pool, but the menacing tentacled one…in the water that I then ordered her to step into.

Oh look. A very special Parenting Moment.

I teach her what to fear


Vivi is at that precarious age where we are beginning to give her more freedom, but that comes along with the responsibility for taking care of yourself. I need to show her the thing to be aware of, the place to be careful, but in doing that, I tipped the balance too far and taught her what to fear. 

While we held hands and made our way back to land, I talked to her about how feelings can get us all worked up and the only thing that will balance them out is facts.

“See all these parents taking their kids out to the sand bar? Do you think we would be doing that if it were dangerous? See that green flag on the lifeguard chair? That means the water’s safe. If there were a bunch of jellyfish around, we would see them washed up all over the beach–we only saw the one. And that’s the first one you’ve seen in TEN YEARS!”

She snuffled a bit and asked more questions about THE ONE JELLYFISH that was clearly plotting to take us down. I kept pointing her back to facts so that the feelings would have time to wear themselves down a little. I mean, I was annoyed as hell with all the hysterics, but Parenting Moment.

We made it to shore. Later that afternoon, we came back down to play in the big waves of high tide. She got in that water every day for a week.

I couldn’t quit thinking about it, though, how it was my pointing out the “bad” jellyfish that triggered her fear. Would it have been better not to mention the stinging tentacles? To let her learn about jellyfish the hard way some other day? Because knowing that a thing is possible invites it into her consciousness. That’s the hard balance of parenting for me–wanting her to be equipped with knowledge, but not knowing for sure if she’s ready for knowledge.

This morning, a college sister who is also a reverend, shared a passage from Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” that spoke to my mothering struggle:

“I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart

and to try to love the questions themselves

as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.

Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

She has to live the questions now. We both do. I have to lead her into the water, dark and deep, even though I have been stung before. The world is out there on the other side of our fears.


rilke - i beg you to patient

Mrs. Malaprop and Moses

“Malapropism” is when you accidentally confuse words with a funny result.   Like the time in college when my art history professor asked why my friend was always falling asleep in class and I said, “Oh, it’s not that you’re boring.  She’s a necrophiliac.”  I meant narcoleptic.  Oopsie.  The term is coined after a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play “The Rivals” (which I actually read and enjoyed back in college, thanks to Dr. Darlene Mettler).  

First Babysit Church

First Babysit Church

Today, Vivi and I were riding a tandem bike around the island.  We passed a church and she yelled, “Hey, Mommy!  It’s the First Babysit Church!”

After a good chuckle, I explained that the two words shared many letters, but they had totally different meanings.  But given Vivi’s propensity for asking questions I then found myself pedaling the bike, balancing, steering and explaining baptism versus christening, John the Baptist and Salome, Protestantism and Catholicism, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, and the Diet of Worms in 1522.  At least we got to our lunch spot before I had to remember the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation.  Wars have been fought over that one.


When we got back to the apartment, Carlos had gone all Old Testament on us.  He had on a Burger King crown and was trying to crawl into a picnic basket made of reeds.  That’s my boy, Moses.


Phoning It In: Tasteless Joke Tuesday

The Baddest Mother Ever is on vacation this week, but I won’t leave you hanging.  Here’s a tasteless joke that I heard on my day job:

What’s the generic name for Viagra?



Mope On the Plane

The Reefs, Bermuda

The Reefs, Bermuda

See this hotel?  This is The Reefs and it’s one of my favorite places in the world.  It’s the place where I discovered that Bermuda really does have pink sand, right there on that pristine, private beach.  It’s where I learned to take tea at 4pm every afternoon on that veranda overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s where I learned that fish make a lot of noise underwater.  When we snorkeled around those rocks, right beside the parrot fish and the yellow tangs, I heard a sound like Rice Krispies just after the milk is poured on–the sound of fish nibbling on the coral reef.  It’s where I learned that you NEVER tell other travelers what you paid for your vacation because it turns out that we paid about 20% of what other people had paid to be there!

It’s also where Richard gave me a piece of advice that I remember to this day, especially on Sunday evenings when my brain is turning towards Monday.

“Mope on the plane, Ashley.  Mope on the plane.”

We were sitting in two of those cushylounge chairs on the pink crescent of beach.  It was our last day of vacation in Bermuda.  Seven days of pink sand, conch fritters, evening dances, afternoon tea, scooters, Dark and Stormy drinks in the hot tub, kayaking, snorkeling, and wishes made under the moon gate.  Our flight wasn’t until later that afternoon, so we had stowed our bags with the concierge in order to spend every possible minute on that beach.  He was enjoying himself.  I was pouting because we had to leave.  It wasn’t fair–other people were just arriving.  Other people had another week to go.  Other people came to The Reefs EVERY YEAR.  Some people even got to live on Bermuda.  But not us.  We had to go home.  

I wasn’t talking much.  I was nursing my hurt.  The only conversation I seemed capable of making was, “I can’t believe we have to leave.”  Finally, the man who could shrug off most anything pulled his head off of the rolled up towel he had made into a pillow and said, “Ashley!  Mope on the plane!  You are wasting precious moments of THIS on THAT.  I’ll talk about leaving when we’re in the shuttle or at the airport, but right now….NO.”  

I think that’s pretty smart stuff for a Sunday night.  How much of life do we spend moping while we’re still on vacation…metaphorically?  How much Sunday gets eaten up with dragging our feet towards Monday?  How many days do we grind through in anticipation of vacation?  (I know I am right now…the count is 26) 

So now when I want to stay present in the good times, I remind myself to “mope on the plane!”  Even these days, when my passport has expired and I plan vacations around things that can entertain a toddler.   We spent two beautiful vacations at The Reefs–once for spring break and once for New Year’s.  I was lucky to have pink sand between my toes, even if I had to come home eventually.