We arrived Sunday too late to really do anything besides unpack, grocery shop, and run up to the top of the access walk to see just how close to the ocean we really were, so Monday morning was our first trip to the ocean. It was the first ever view of the ocean for Nemo, the first view of the Atlantic for Sunny. The day was bright and clear, the temps were comfortable with a good breeze coming off the ocean and low humidity. The first thing I noticed, though, was how rough the surf was, the roughest I'd seen to that point.
We meandered down the beach and found a good spot to put our stuff, not far from the access point, and not too close to the surf. Nemo was scared of it, and he'd cry and cry every time any member of our family would go near the water, much less in it. Unfortunately, the rest of the family is made up of daredevils who immediately jumped in. I tend toward the cautious, and I noticed that not many other people were playing in the water at all, even along the edges. I asked BigDaddyFish not to go in, not to take them in, but he says they're okay with him, he can handle it. I was worried, though, since I believe he tends to underestimate threat and he thinks I overestimate it, but I don't ever want my fears about things to keep my kids from living their lives - I don't want to be the parent like that guy on the tv commercial who puts flippers and a life jacket and a floaty ring and goggles and more on his daughter only to have them jump into two feet of water. BDF and I had already given the kids the "Safe Surf" lecture at least three times, so I backed off and let him take them in. BDF took one kid at a time in the water to jump around in the waves a bit, no more than thigh deep for him, so he could hold onto the kids and keep them safe. My job was to be the boundary enforcer, not allowing any of the other kids near the water. This wasn't hard because at that point the other kids were pretty cautious and didn't want to get wet yet.
While Nemo discovered that you could throw! sand! and it would fly! into your eye! or your mother's eye! I noticed the beach patrol guy coming down the beach on his little four wheeler thingy, stopping every so often and saying something to people on the beach. The wind was blowing, sand was flying, he was hopping along, and I'm trying to keep track of all the small people in all this mess and not get blinded by the sand Nemo was trying to cover me with. Trout was in the water with BDF doing their surf jumping thing, and the beach patrol guy worked his way to stop in front of us.
"We aren't allowing swimming today," he says. "We're telling people that even if you are staying in the shallows, like you are, it isn't safe to be swimming," I hear him say, as I keep an eye on all the kids to make sure no one goes into the water. I turn my head toward BDF to tell him, but he's already walked up to where we are so that he can hear, about 10 feet away from the beach patrol guy and me. Then I see Trout, and she runs sideways and jumps into a wave, her back to the surf in direct violation of what we've taught her, not seeing the larger one behind her, and then her feet are up in the air, her arms are flailing and she's going, on her back, she can't get her footing and she's being pulled out.
"GET HER, B!" I scream, knowing she can't get herself righted and she can't swim. She. Can't. Swim. It's too rough and she's being pulled out and there's no way I can get to her and BDF grabs her shoulder just as she starts to go by. She's coughing and sputtering and spitting sand and can't get out of the surf fast enough, but she's nodding and saying "I'm okay, I'm okay," between coughs. I realized I was holding my breath and let it out as the tears and nausea come, realizing just how close we were to losing her, even with the beach patrol guy standing right there.
He continued a bit of a lecture to me and BDF, mostly BDF, about not swimming because exactly what just happened could happen, with tragic results. He even said "I hate to say it, but, Death." He got back on his little ATV thing and drove off down the beach. I looked at BDF, put my hand up to lecture him, opened my mouth, and couldn't speak. He told me to put my hand down, I didn't need it, he knew.
I walked to our towels and sat down by Trout, biting my lip and drawing blood so I didn't start screaming. After all, she was safe. Sandy, shaken, but safe. Instead I sat and shook, waves of nausea and adrenaline cascading through me, unable to do anything about it but wait until it passed. The hell of it all is that Trout didn't really seem too bothered by it. Independently of each other BDF and I both sat her down and tried to explain just how close she had come to being swept out to sea, of us losing her, and she kept saying "I know, I KNOW. I'm Fine." She may have been, but I wasn't.
We let them play, primarily in the sand, for an hour more before heading back to the cottage. It was only then that I saw the red flags showing the beach as closed to swimming. I guess what Trout needed was to sleep on it, because for the rest of the trip she didn't want to go further into the water than one foot from the edge of the wash. We went to the beach Friday morning before we left, and that was the roughest surf I've ever seen. I was worried sick about it. BDF wanted to take each kid in so they could feel the power of the surf enough to knock their legs out from under them, but with him holding them, so they would develop more respect for the ocean and what it can do.
Trout refused to go. Lesson learned.