We have been fortunate lately to be spending some time on the beach. The beach near my parent's house on the dunes is quiet and mostly deserted. Some days we see no one, others we have occasional joggers, walkers or see other families playing in the distance.
Most of the time we hit the beach after a days worth of errands or cleaning the house. It's a great respite, especially as I find the time spent in the house to be emotionally draining. I often bring a book and don't touch it, preferring to sit and think.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about how my parents handled the job of parenting and how it is the similar or different from my own methods. The beach we handle in the same manner. The kids carry whatever it is they want on the beach, usually that is nothing. Sometimes the take a towel. I take a water bottle and my beach chair. When they were younger, they each took a bucket and shovel, or yogurt cups or something to create sandcastles with. Then they realized they needed nothing on the beach to amuse themselves.
Typically we climb over the dune, the kids running up the hill on the hot, hot sand to get to the shade at the top. Then they scamper down the stairs, dash across the sand to the water and go right in. Now that they are older, they have to wait until I'm on the beach before going in beyond knee depth. I used to be able to match their speed.
If it's windy and they can ride waves, they stay in the water a long time. I sit and watch, the water still being too cold for me to go in on all but the hottest of days. Then they come out and each do their own thing on the beach. Large lately has been creating structures out of driftwood, which is why he wanted the towel. Medium sits right on the edge making sand sculptures with the wettest of sand. Small digs holes, makes mountain shaped "lake houses" or slides down whatever ridges the latest storms have left behind. It's a magical spot where they can be and do what they want to, as unstructured or complicated as they want it to be.
My parents let us have a lot of this kind of time in my childhood. We went to this very same community, but to a different beach. We walked along the road or through the sand dunes, carrying our own stuff. Usually nothing at all, except for our teen years when we concentrated on our tans. But even at home, we had a lot of magical spots where we could go and just be with our own selves and the thoughts in our heads. They lived on five acres in a not quite yet suburban sprawl area. Even as small children, my mother would pop us out the door in the morning and expect us to come home when hungry. Or hurt, or tired. We weren't watched over as closely as parents tend to do now, and we certainly weren't scheduled to tightly, especially in our younger years.
I wish we had more opportunity for this kind of life, the magical solitude and freedom to just be. We don't live in the same kind of setting, but we seek it out and take advantage of it as best we can.