Merry Christmas, everyone! We had a pretty unusual one this year as we just got back from a week in Florida. It was SO surreal to see Christmas decor and hear Christmas music as we ate seafood fresh from the ocean, outdoors, wearing sunglasses, flip flops and tee shirts! They tried, with holiday food and lots of lights in the palm trees, But it didn't feel like Christmas at all. Who wants to drink hot chocolate when it's 80 degrees out? Not us! We hit the beach first thing on the first morning.
As you might remember from my big push to earn the bonus that allowed this trip to become a possibility, it was recommend to us that we introduce the ocean gradually to our kids. They both have moderate Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and the ocean is a huge, loud and overwhelming place. I came prepared with hoodie sweatshirts, hats, ear plugs, sunglasses, extra pairs of clean socks--everything I could think of to help reduce the sensory onslaught of sand, wind, sun and sound. I also tried to bring along low expectations and plenty of non-beach-related activities in case they needed more breaks and smaller doses of the ocean.
I am so happy to report that Natalie (a sensory seeker) embraced it whole-heartedly from the moment she saw it. Our hotel was right on the Cocoa Beach pier so we just walked right out the door and over the dune and there we were. She is a beach babe for LIFE after this trip! I was not expecting that at all. She wants to redecorate her room with an ocean theme now.
Dan pretty much reacted as we expected him to. He has the type of SPD that is a sensory avoider, and we agreed ahead of time that we were not going to push him and make everyone miserable. From the very first day, his relief at being allowed to just BE himself was both telling and touching. We have not been perfect parents to our boy, but we have tried, with the best of intentions, to help him not resist new experiences and miss out on things that others take for granted. It's often very hard to find the balance. Our choices for how to approach this trip resulted in a great attitude and more willingness to try some new things, that really surprised us.
Some might find this a sad picture. Why wasn't he enjoying himself with the family? Why wasn't he wading, or at least enjoying the sand on his feet? Why was he so bundled up when it wasn't even cold? But as Dan's mom, let me tell you, this picture makes me tear up for all the right reasons. What you see in this picture is a kid allowed to experience something incredible at his own pace, on his own terms. I will forever be grateful that my husband and I were of the same mind about how to handle this ocean trip. The difference between the two types of SPD could not have been more obvious--I will be using some of these experiences in future meetings with teachers to help illustrate how they might approach something from completely different ends.
Here's the same boy on our next beach, in Saint Augustine... you'll notice he still has on regular clothes, full shoes and socks, and isn't anywhere near the water, but he's also happy as a "clam" (ha ha!) digging and discovering on the beach, fascinated by the variety of shells, entranced by the funny little sand pipers, chasing the gulls, popping up to me with odd facts he learned in science class, finding a dead jellyfish, prodding a far-traveled coconut encrusted with barnacles, planning a moat around the half-built sand castle we found.
Where was Natalie? As far in the ocean as we would let her go, naturally! She had no fear and I had to keep reminding her that the surf was high and it truly was too cold to actually swim. It was great that the beach was so empty so we could let them roam around without worries. The ocean worked it's magic on us all. Mike relaxed in the sunshine and let a busy, stressful semester work itself out of his bones and into the waves. The time spent NOT in his dress shoes did wonders for the broken bones in his left foot. I did a lot of thinking and a lot of letting go. 2015 was a hard year. Facebook has been doing that fun thing where it shows you your posts from that day on previous years, and it was like relieving that emotion and upheaval all over again. But in the same way, it was like an epiphany for me: look, you have been dealing with this particular stress for a year. It's ok to let it go now. It's ok to say, this happened but it is over now; from here we make a new start.
So there you go... our beach report. I know I've said it many times before, but every single one of you who participates in Song of My Heart in any way, you made this happen. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the wind in our hair, the sand in our shoes, the little collection of crusty "treasures" we carted home, and the unforgettable memory-making. God bless you for that. I hope your Christmas was even half as wonderful as ours was, and I hope 2016 brings you joy more profound than any year proceeding it.