Overprotected Kids Take Over the Beach

Today I had a wonderful discussion with a new friend about whether or not we’re ruining our kids. We lamented the tension between being a nurturing, involved mom and being an overprotective nutcase.
Do young kids need to navigate a bigger, scarier world solo to gain true self-confidence?
During our conversation, I said, “One thing we do to help our kids spread their wings is take them to the beach.”
In retrospect, I realize that was a stupid thing to say. Really? I feel like I’m balancing the tension between supportive and spoiling by taking my kids to the beach? That’s my solution to helping them learn about the hard knocks of life? The beach?
But yes, the beach is our family’s spot for grand adventure.
After nightfall, we take our kids Ghost Crab Hunting. This is where the larger-than-life adventure comes in. This is where the kids spread their wings.
Actually, Ghost Crab hunting is fun for everyone. Even the most exhausted suburban mom and dad get swept up in the adventure of collecting buckets and flashlights and walking down an inky path to the beach to hunt itty bitty crabs.
The beach at nighttime is a magical place. The waves are louder when they’re not competing with seagulls’ cackling. When you can’t see anything, the salt water smells so strong. The sea breeze can almost knock you over with its nocturnal strength.
Like the forest after dark, the beach is a wonderful mix of loud and silent, calm and hair-raising, peaceful and exciting.

Kids, who are so much more in-tune to these things, react immediately. They’re giddy. Silly. Loud. Running everywhere. But also sticking close to our sides. They’re scared the crabs will pinch them. They’re scared of the loud waves. They’re scared they’ll get lost.
We assure them they’ll be fine.
And off they run.

Their energy, of course, is not conducive to catching the shy little crabs. But who cares? Ghost Crab hunting is all about finding a reason to go down to the eerie shore and have an adventure. It’s all about watching the kids run after the tiny, elusive creatures, screaming and laughing as they fall in a heap on top of the poor, tiny crabs.
So, maybe none of this sounds like the breeding ground for coping skills. Maybe this all seems like more nurtured, over-protected fun.
But it’s not. This is my kids spreading their wings.

I can see it in their delighted faces when they capture one of the translucent sea creatures. They’ve conquered their fear of the dark, of the wild shoreline, of the pinching crabs. They feel good about themselves.
The dark beach was spooky, but they survived. They ran so far away, so far they couldn’t see their parents, but they still found us waiting for them.
As we walk home, our captured crabs dumped back by the shore, the kids walk a little taller. We might be headed back into our cush life, but the kids seem to know they could handle trouble that might come their way.

And best of all, they are finally exhausted.

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