When the winter storms came the beach changed forever the beach that we had known for 20 years was rearranged by the power of the Atlantic. Now there is a large lagoon with a strong tide that whisks in and out twice a day creating a deep channel. The beach landscape has changed significantly over the years and each year we have struggled at first to let go of what was familiar and reacquaint ourselves with the new. To figure out the tide and the currant and to learn to work with it rather than against it. Similarly in our family the roles have changed and shifted along with the tides and the sands and on our two week family holidays we often get reacquainted with each other as time shifts our roles.
Normally this part of the west coast of France is patrolled by the CRS police on holiday from Paris for the summer. One of the only noticeable signs of our changing world to my boys was their absence this year the strong powerful folk of the CRS. They were sadly needed in Paris this summer so were replaced with fresh faced (pretty much children in my Pa’s view) life guards. The result was Pa taking an increased interest in supervising the hundreds of folk battling the Atlantic. He stands on the waters edge proclaiming near drowning of the masses who battle in and out of the waves, about twice a day he is right! The arrival of the lagoon two years ago has made this even more exciting as now there is a channel of deep fast flowing water to cross to reach the sand bank and then the waves.
My day at beach usually goes something like this, lay down……translate all lifeguard announcements for the boys. It is always important to know if Pierre aged 8 is lost right!? Or which flags to swim between and where not to surf!
Then I swim and do battle with the Atlantic. I love to swim and so on occasion Pa walks the mile or so up the beach so that I can swim with the current back down at the speed of an Olympian! He strides along the beach in his speedos and white hat firmly secured with a string.
Due to the heat this summer Pa wanted to go “right into the sea” to cool down. This meant crossing the lagoon as it raced out towards Spain. Ma insisted he should to go alone for fear of him being washed up on the beach in Saint Sebastian. So given the missing CRS I was sent as lifeguard. We waded in and I started to swim. It’s cold deep and fast flowing water so I turned to see where Pa was. All I could see was the white hat still secured with the string and an announcement “I can’t swim any more” he was neck deep and still standing due to being 6 foot 4. It seemed that the can’t swim meant ever and never rather than just across the lagoon! “Pa now is not the time for such revelations! I shouted as I swam back for him determined that he would swim. With some encouragement along the lines of “swim you silly old beggar” I managed to get him afloat and headed out towards the surf doggy paddling along side him as he did some kind of wiggle stroke the whilst not stylish did actually propel him forward.
I thought not much more of this incident until the next day the boys said “mum can we go Wilder beast?? What ?? I said “like you and Grandad yesterday…….look the people crossing the lagoon look like wilder beast. Some of them make it some don’t! You got Grandad over so now take us!
Is it a good idea to take your kids into deep fast flowing Atlantic waters? Sure! My parenting my be patchy but I think a wilder beast adventure is just the thing for growing lads. So off we set, me reassuring them that it would be just like a length of the pool, but knowing it would feel like four! I pointed out where we would set off from and where we would aim to reach the sand spit (some way down the beach) and we were off. Unlike Grandad there was a lot of swimming furious front crawl. As I shepherded them both across I thought this is the good bit of parenting. Those precious moments of team and family and achievement that I know will live in their memories and hopefully survive like the strong wilder beast and let the hopeless calamities, the lateness the getting lost and going to the wrong cricket grounds and the rubbish stuff ………Mum Moo has thrown up in the bath (literally what just happened) fade from their memories. I want them to look back on the summer and not worry the the CRS were not there because of terror threats but to remember their strength crossing the lagoon to make it to the waves.
The next day I swam out alone to throw myself under huge waves and left the boys on the shore line. As I turned to swim back I saw 2 heads bobbing towards me ….they had Wilder beasted alone and successfully. At first I was cross that they had not followed instructions and stayed on the shore. But then I reconsidered and recognised they had adopted the valuable life skill of see one do one and of belief in their own abilities ………..or so I thought
epilogue- December 2020
So they did remember this incident but not quite for the reasons I had hoped. That will teach me!
Turns out that they also learnt another skill that day! The don’t tell Mum so she doesn’t worry skill. It has been revealed that on their solo crossing “Moo got tired on the crossing and tried to stand up, he couldn’t so swallowed a lot of water! I told him to lay on his back but to make sure the lifeguard was not looking and I towed him for a bit. We thought you would be cross if we had to be rescued so we kept going! Brotherly love!