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Sand in the Place Where You Are

On July 1, we picked up my husband's youngest brother on the corner of Flatbush and Myrtle at 8:05 a.m..  Nearly eight hours later, we arrived at Camp, my husband's family's cottage on a lake in Maine.  

My husband and his three brothers spent their summers at Camp as boys  (yes - he is one of four boys - this might be a good time to raise your glass to his parents and their tireless efforts at parenting).  During those summers, they spent most of their days catching frogs and snakes and getting into all sorts of secret mischief with the other kids around the lake.  Every Fifth of July, they would scour the lake for the remains of the fireworks from the night before.  They would compete to see who could find not only the most but also the best dead fireworks (apparently, multi-shot cakes were the "best" and Roman Candles were a close second).  The winner's prize was a simple but very real pleasure - pride.

It is probably fair to write that both my husband and I expected that Baby would love Camp and the beach and the lake and the general relief of being out of the city (at least temporarily).  Baby corrected us - yet again.
As soon as my husband parked the car, he brought Baby down to the beach and set him down to stand in the sand by the water.  Our little CityBaby looked up at us as if we had landed on Mars and were thinking about setting up a space colony with Baby as our Satellite Beach Commander.  Then Baby started to breathe quick little inhalations as if the air around him could disappear at any second.  I scooped him up, and we decided to try the beach experience the next day.

How do we help our children conquer their fears?  

I am afraid of sharks.  When I went scuba diving with my husband on our honeymoon, I tried to ignore my fear in favor of the fun he and I could have together.  Scuba Instructor Gilles did not help matters, though, when he pointed out the name of the boat and made a joke that referenced Open Water.  

On our first dive that morning, the group was swimming along happily looking at fish.  The dive leader turned to the group and put his hand on top of his head as if it were a fin (the international underwater sign for "shark").  I stopped swimming.  The group continued.  Jokes McGilles turned back and motioned for me to continue.  He even seemed to be smiling - as if I would want to see the shark.  I was upright, treading water, and I shook my head no.  No, I would not swim past the shark.  No, no, and no thank you.  About one second later, I realized that I could either swim past the shark with the group, or I could stay behind alone, where an even bigger shark could swim past me.  It bears repeating: alone.

So I acquiesced and swam forward to join the group.  On my way, I swam past the shark.  It was a nurse shark [hiding] head first in a reef.  Honestly, not much to fear.  I should have been much more concerned later when we swam past a group of barracudas (the underwater signal for which looks like a fist chewing on something).  But I was so worried about a rogue, jaw-chomping mega-shark coming to get us, I had very little energy to devote to The Barracuda.  Distraction can be a great substitute for bravery. 

As such, by the sixth day at Camp, we decided to distract Baby. We put a toy he was obsessing with near the water, and he eventually moved toward it and disregarded sand under his feet and the lake lapping at his toes.  Then I carried Baby with me into the lake.  My husband and I started to sing silly songs while I moved into deeper and deeper water.  Eventually, Baby was in up to his belly.  Project Goofy Distraction was a success.  Baby was even willing to get into a Floating Baby Cabana while my husband and I swam around him.  

I know that Baby will face other fears and worries as he grows, and I know (sadly) that singing Down By the Bay while I bounce him in and out of his fear might not always do the trick.  But make no mistake, that won't stop me from trying.

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