Alexander being chased by the waves... I wouldn't let him in. I was a Mean Mommy today but the tide was high when we got to the beach and the rip tides and undertow too strong for my littlest boy. Later in the day he would understand why I was being so mean.
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My arms ache and my shoulders and back are sore! Boogie boarding and swimming in the ocean the past couple of days has proven to have been quite the work out. The waters are rough. The undertow is strong. Riptides have been appearing, it seemed, out of nowhere. The waves have been fun to ride and often hard to stand up to. But the water has been bath-like, especially for here in Maine. And so how could I not have a little fun.
Now that my shoulder has been repaired I'm able to join the kids. Rebecca begged and pleaded over the winter that I have the surgery so I could go boogie boarding with her this summer. And for that reason alone the surgery was so worth it! And yet, I remember, as I paddle past and over the watery white caps, the wave that knocked me down 12 years ago causing the first of many dislocations and 12 years of pain. I cannot forget and I will not forget. I am not as strong a swimmer as I used to be. I will get there again one day, but I know I do not yet possess the strength to save myself should I find myself in such a situation. I have fun with the kids but I remain leery and cautious. But I cannot let this turn into fear and take away my fun.
Riptides are caused by the uneven surfaces at the bottom of the sea. The winter storms have caused the sandy bottom to shift and erode, forming sandbars in some locations and deep holes in others. When the tide is high and the undertow strong, riptides are formed by the sea's uneven bottom. Even when close to the shore. The sea has been beautiful but incredibly rough here the past few days. I worry for all of my children but more so for my littlest who is not familiar with the ocean's power and strength. He is fearless and determined. This is certainly not a combination I like in a child who wants to venture into rough waters. My oldest is smart and skilled. My middle one less skilled but very aware of his surroundings and his own insecurities when it comes to rough waters. In our particular area in Maine 48 rescues have been made in just 2 days. Most of these rescued are grown and capable swimmers. I've never seen such a flurry of lifeguard activity in all the summers I have been coming here.
We keep our little ones close by and still the sea can pull them out. When we tell them to get out of the water they listen. Eventually the tide will turn, become more gentle and recede. The waves will still be strong enough for boogie boards and surf boards.
Luckily there is so much to do here that we can keep busy at beach without being in the rough waters. About a half a mile away there is a creek that connects the inlet to the ocean. The waters race down the little creek even at low tide. The current is strong. We try to walk upstream and feel as though we are walking in place! This is a great place to collect pretty rocks and shells and sea glass. This year we've all been bless by the wonderful gifts the sea has given us. Among us we have found 5 sand dollars in just two days. They are magnificent.
It is hard to explain the perils of the sea to such a small child... a child who sees others frolic around and having fun. It's hard to be so much smaller than everyone else. It's hard to watch those around you having all the fun. But it would be so much harder to lose a child.
Yesterday, not far from us on our beach, a woman was found floating in the waters by two teenagers. She was unresponsive. A flurry of activity swarmed around her when she was brought up to dry land. CPR was preformed. Police and ambulances and the fire department showed up. As did all the life guards. Nothing was known about this woman. One would assume that she was on vacation with her family. One would assume she was someone's mother. One would assume she was someone's wife... someone's daughter. One would assume she knew how to swim.
This is a quiet bucolic town, a throwback to easier times in the 50s. The streets are safe and the children roam freely. Nothing happens here. The families that come here do so year after year, generation after generation. The families that come here know the sea... respect the sea...
Should you ever find yourself in a situation where the waters seem rough, the current strong or a riptide near by DO NOT PANIC
... instead swim, slowly, calmly and PARALLEL
to the shore. Do not try to swim in until you feel the waters have calmed. Riptides can come, seemingly, out of nowhere. The unevenness of the sea's sandy bottom is what causes them. Swim until you see relatively calm waters. You may just be a few feet away. Should you find yourself in TROUBLE
... do NOT
raise your arms and flail about. Try to get attention by remaining calm. Being calm and focusing your energy on swimming and treading waters is very important. Most importantly do not go out alone if you can help it. If possible bring a buddy with you. If waters are rough stick close to shore. Take a look at your surroundings and notice what other swimmers are doing. If there are few simmers in the ocean your best bet may be to stay out for a while if you are unsure of your skills. Lifeguards are competent and good and will notice you have gone out too far. They will respond and come and get you. Vacations are meant for fun and relaxation but it is important to always be safe.