By the time you read this, children across the land will be back in school and some form of normality will have been restored. Parents will be rejoicing. Child-free folk will be setting off on their non-term-time getaways.
The Summer has gone by in a flash. We recently returned from a holiday in Devon, where we met two very new members of the family and explored the beautiful towns of Kingsbridge and Dartmouth. A day at the beach consisted of a dip in the ocean and some mild boat-trauma.
I used to think of myself as someone who thrived in water. Swimming is a joy, I love being in the sea, and I gave birth to my daughter in a bath at Royal Berks Hospital so it’s always had positive associations for me. But water-based activities? No no.
It became clear, on this sunny afternoon, that I much prefer being in the water, as opposed to bobbing about on top of it.
Joel had borrowed an inflatable canoe for our trip and was keen to take Maia out in it. When she returned from her ride all she could say from then on was “Is Mummy coming in with me?!”. I gulped. The child was adamant that I get in the canoe with her. And the more she wanted it the more I realised I really really didn’t. I’d been in a canoe in the sea once before. It was horrific. A choppy day off some coastline on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The boat rocked about so much that I constantly felt as though I was about to fall out. (Which would have been entirely manageable given how shallow it was). I screamed for the entire eight minutes and by the end my fellow canoeist got so annoyed he tipped the thing over. The thought of repeating that experience gave me shivers.
“You’ve been in now Maia you don’t need me to come in with you!” Then came the sad eyes, the look of disappointment, the feigned acceptance. She left the scene to get ice cream. I took a moment and gave myself a parental pep-talk. I didn’t want her to look back on this day and remember her mother with disappointment. I wanted her to think of me as adventurous and playful and…fun. Someone who plunges in, gets involved, not someone who sits on the sidelines. The mother who gets in the canoe. I wanted to make memories.
“I’ll do it” I muttered to Joel.
We lugged the boat to the shore and each got in. All was fine for a mili-second then the waves started hitting. At which point the screaming began, almost without my consent.
“Ange it’s fine!” Joel’s attempts at reassurance fell on deaf ears.
“Mummy it’s fine!” Maia’s did too.
“Sorry sorry!” I said, tears streaming down my face.
“Are you crying?!” Joel could not comprehend what was unfolding.
Then another big wave hit and before I knew it I was removing myself from the canoe.
“Ange what are you doing?!”
“I can’t do this! I can’t do it!”
“Please get back in..”
I got back in only to hop out again 60 seconds later.
“Look this is the choppiest bit, all the waves are here, once we get further out it’ll be smooth!”
I believed him and got back in, because I am an adult. A fun adult. It was strangely pleasant, enjoyable even, once we’d got past the bumpy waves. I immediately felt absolutely mortified. Half the beach had probably witnessed the whole affair. But then at least I’d given it a go. No sitting on the sidelines. We made memories alright.