I have four children under the age of five. I like to call our everyday life 'controlled chaos,' but in reality, crazy is our normal and we just own it. (Most of the time.) With four kids, sleeping in to double digits is something I can only dream about. By 6:30 a.m. all four are not only awake, but also unapologetically energetic.
The outdoors has become our sanity. It has been the most wonderful gift to witness my children fall in love with the sounds of the waves pulling back along the rocks on the shore. Or seeing their curiosity and love for each insect they stumble upon. Or witnessing them putting together how everything is intertwined and perfectly paired within nature.
Earlier this year, I was handed two of the sweetest gifts. I was given a day in Massachusetts where temperatures reached the mid 60's, and I was able to spend that day at the ocean, alone, with only my daughter Nora. Being a mom to four is so much fun. It is magical, sweet, full of so much unexpectedness and joy. But it can also be overwhelming. I sometimes feel that in meeting everyone's daily needs, I lay down my head at night feeling a little bruised. I know they were fed three meals but were their little hearts fed? Did I spend enough time with each of them? Did they all feel loved and heard?
To be able to participate in my kids' love of the outdoors, to see their wonder and how they learn to navigate nature, has truly been one of my favorite aspects of motherhood. It is a true treat to share with them my love of the outdoors and all of the activities that I adored as a child myself. So this opportunity to not only be outside, but to escape to my favorite spot with my daughter for the day made my heart sing. I only had one child to buckle up in a car seat. We could stop wherever we wanted because getting out and holding the hand of only one child is easier than getting into my jeans. I could even comfortably do so while holding a hot coffee in my free hand. And I only had to worry about one child having to go to the bathroom.
I felt as if getting to the ocean couldn't come fast enough. It has a tendency to wash away my stress. My soul finds a sense of calmness, wonder, and clarity at the edge of the ocean's vastness. Witnessing Nora's joy and delight for not only being there, but also being there with me, became a moment that I will cherish and vividly hold onto for the rest of my life.
Moments after we reached to beach, without a second of hesitation, Nora stripped off her shoes, grabbed my hand and asked me to do the same. She wanted to stand in the water. She wanted to feel the tug of the waves and the pebbles roll across her feet. Being February in New England did not phase her. In that moment, I could not have been more proud to say she was my daughter. We share the same love for the outdoors and water. My head feels most free and my heart feels most content when I am lost in nature's arms.
Nora and I were able to spend our day together, removed from the normal loudness that fills our days. I felt as if I truly got to hear her and love on only her. That day ended up being more filling for me than I could have ever dreamed. Real life – messy, messy life – is beautiful, too. But being able to step outside of our normal, slow down and experience that day at one of my most beloved spots with my daughter was unforgettable for us both.
The number of times she broke into the most contagious giggle or countless "I love you's" was perfection. We scoured the beach for heart rocks and filled her bag with treasures. We counted periwinkles and traced their trails with our fingers. I was able to witness a love for the ocean sprout in my daughter's heart that day.