Last year our family took a trip down south of Tampa to our little spot of heaven, Anna Maria Island. We found a tiny house (2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom) constructed of cement blocks but STEPS from the beach. We piled all the kids into one bedroom and enjoyed every minute of our beach trip. The weather was…not perfect. We had sunshine. Most days. But it also came with a decent amount of wind and a few days when sitting on the beach was more of a test of toughness than a chance to relax. On our less-than-perfect weather days we tried to find some fun things to do around the island. We went to a National Monument to hear about how the area was settled. My kids watched some reenactments and joined a middle school field trip group to ask questions. Not surprisingly my kiddos had the most questions. By the end of the visit, they were experts.
On another less-than-perfect day we rented a slew of bicycles and headed out to explore the island. The three oldest kids had bikes of their own, and we rented a bike trailer for one adult bike and a child seat for the back of the other. When our middle daughter got fed up with her bike (“it sounds like a screeching monkey!!!”) she joined her sister in the bike trailer, and I had about 100 lbs of girl to haul around behind me. We looked like the scene from The Sound of Music when Maria makes the kids clothes out of curtains and takes them out to ride bikes. We were our own parade. People waved and said hi. We even decided to ride our bikes out to dinner.
The restuarant we picked, Wicked Cantina, was delicious and a great choice for our big family to eat well and without a wait. It wasn’t until after dinner that we were truly confronted with our decision to ride our bikes. We had about two miles to ride. On the busy beach road. As the sun was setting. On a full stomach of tacos and burritos. We arrived home with frazzled nerves, sweat soaked clothes and regret. But it was a family memory and the kids have talked about renting bikes ever since.
Fast forward to this year and we have had perfect weather and long, wonderfully exhausting beach days…but no bike rentals. My oldest son was devasted. He’s been dreaming (with rose colored glasses) of renting bikes again! Thankfully, my husband is an adventurer. He has no problem trying something new and taking the chance that it will fail. He is my hero. So when he went to the grocery store one morning and came back with an ocean kayak for our family to use for the day, I was not surprised. And the day was glorious.
The kids, especially the oldest two, spent hours cruising down the shore, confidently navigating the waves and urging us to go further and further out. Our 6 year old, BooBoo, who loves all repetitive motion, but isn’t quite big or strong enough to paddle, was living her best life perched on the front of the kayak while her big brother rowed her up and down the shore line, again and again and again. That’s kind of a perfect metaphor for their relationship. He cares for her and rows her around, and she sits in front with a huge smile on her face, a beautiful little dictator. He’s been wrapped around her little finger since day one.
But the lesson for me that day, the brilliant takeaway, was that sometimes the memory of something we’ve done creates some expectation or desire to make it happen again just the way it was before. But if we are willing to branch out and try something new we can make more beautiful memories and grow and try new experiences, too. I also learned that sea kayaking takes a special kind of strong. And that 9 year old boys are impossible to exhaust. And that I need to always trust my husband…cause he really does come up with the best ideas!