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Lessons Learned at the Beach

This past week was Spring Break for our family. We headed out on our 2nd annual beach camping trip. Like last year, we stayed in a yurt to secure dry, warm conditions in case it rained. Since we were staying at the ocean in April, rain was inevitable, and we wanted to be prepared. Here are a few lessons I learned during our trip:

1. A wide-open, sandy beach is perfect for traveling blind. Eddie was able to use his cane with reckless abandon and wasn’t at risk of hitting anyone or colliding with large obstacles. We had a chair for him to rest, but he would spontaneously rise up and walk in large circles singing and dancing at whim. We could be yards away and knew he was perfectly safe to explore and enjoy the beach.

2. When all goes south, find the nearest pizza and/ or ice cream…quickly. When Eddie lost patience with us and our tourist activities, he got upset very fast. He spent a few hours of quality time sitting in our van with his dad or myself listening to his favorite CD when we simply couldn’t keep him calm. The only way to get him back involved with the family was to bribe him with his favorite foods. Luckily, tourist towns are always stocked with pizza and ice cream.

3. The ocean offers something for all the senses. When I go to the ocean, I rely on my vision to watch the waves, take in the panoramic views, and to comb the beach for treasures. When Eddie goes to the ocean, he can taste the salt, hear the waves, and feel all the beachcombing treasures. He also can smell the sea-soaked seashells stinking up the back of our mini-van…he couldn’t stop smelling them even if he wanted to…none of us could.

4. While sleeping as a family together in the yurt, any kind of rest is a gift not to be taken lightly. We stayed at our campsite for three nights. The first two, everyone slept all night long, and didn’t rouse until 6:30, which is unheard of for our kids. The final night, my husband and I tested fate by staying up until 11:30 at the campfire enjoying each other’s company. We went to bed, and a half-hour later, Eddie was awake. Not just for a few minutes, but spontaneously crying every 15-20 minutes until dawn broke. Thank goodness we had two good nights before that, or we would have been beyond help the following day.

5. When travelling with special needs kids, always make a list before packing. We walked out of our house without two very important things. The first was Eddie’s medical “binder” full of important information in the event of an emergency. Luckily, we didn’t need it. The second was the communication system we have in place for him made out of tactile symbols. That forgotten item I quickly referred to as an “epic” parental failure.

Imagine leaving for a trip without your voice. That is exactly what we did to Eddie. This is the downfall of a communication system outside himself, but for now, it is the best he has…and we forgot it. As soon as we realized our error, Eddie leaned forward in his car-seat and said, “Make a choice.” Yep, his key phrase for his communication board. I wanted to cry…which was quickly followed by actual crying coming from my son.

When restating this “failure” to my sister, she quickly corrected me and said, “lesson.” By that simple revelation, I felt better. I’m not perfect; none of us can be as parents. We learn from our greatest achievements…and our self-perceived failures. So, for the sake of keeping a positive outlook on my mothering skills, I’ll chalk it up to another lesson learned at the beach.