Yesterday, after school and work were done, I gathered my kids and headed to the beach. I felt determined the three of us would have a late afternoon spent at the beach before school lets out this Friday. I wanted us to do something fun before summer began, to have the joy of squeezing in something excellent and different into an otherwise routine day. Once school lets out, hours with which to do what they want would become my children’s status quo.
As soon as we arrived at the water, it was clear this was not going to be a good afternoon for the beach. The wind was strong and the waves were rough. The water was stirring up so much sand that it looked dull, almost beige, instead of blue. The tide was so high that in many sections of the beach, there were only a few feet between where the water ended and the dunes began. But we pushed on, taking off our sandals and walking down into the sand, seeking out an area where the beach went back further and we would have room to set up in the sand. Since the water was rough, we decided it was not going to be a day to swim and put our feet in the water for a minute as a compromise. We then relaxed on our blanket and rested for a few minutes, and as the kids worked on a sand creation it became clear to me — this strange, windy and rough beach day was not going to sustain us for an evening of fun. It wasn’t even going to bring enough enjoyment to last long enough to miss the last of rush hour on the drive back. And so I took a moment to think and readjust. Why had I brought the kids to the beach? What was I hoping to accomplish by making the effort to get here at the end of the day?
The answer I came up with wasn’t really that I needed us to be at the beach. What I did want us to have was a day a little different from our usual weekdays. I wanted my kids off their screens. I wanted to be outside somewhere we all enjoy and to also try something different there. Once I was clear on those goals, I was able to readjust and keep moving. I asked the kids how much longer they wanted to spend on the beach. They were both willing to leave immediately. We packed up, headed to the boardwalk, and tried something new. We stopped at a concession that we had not been to before, and had a delicious and breezy dinner. We left the boardwalk, went a few blocks inland, and I took the kids someplace I had been to without them but wanted to share with them. We stopped and watched some of an outdoor school performance of Aladdin. And then, before heading back home, we did something familiar and always enjoyable — we stopped for ice cream. On the drive home, we were buoyed by our adventure, and impressed with ourselves for having had such a fun beach evening on a day that did not seem like it was destined to be a great beach day.
I approached the problem outing that wasn’t what I expected in the way I try to approach the rest of life. I set out toward what I want to do. If it doesn’t go as planned, I try to ask what is really important about what I am doing, and I readjust. Then I keep moving toward what I want. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it often gets me what I need. And it always make life feel like a worthwhile adventure.
What is it you want to do? What do you do when something gets in the way?