Just Another Day at the Beach

Traveling with Tobey is a challenge. Because of the instability of his first 4 years, he is very concerned when we spend the night away from home. We’re thankful that he has adapted so well to life with us, and that he very quickly came to see our home as his. Now that he knows that it is his house, any disruption to that stability is a major threat.

This is 4th of July week, and we’ve travelled to the beach in North Carolina for a family reunion with the wife’s family and our first four children. It’s a great group, although not without its quirks. Everyone has been very accepting of Tobey, welcoming him as if he were born into this brood. Even so, we can see his unease just below the surface. Occasionally, out of the blue, he says very clearly, “I want to go back to my house. I want to live there forever.” It makes me wonder what’s going on inside that little head.

Despite the intermittent longing for home, which I’m sure is normal even for kids without his history, he loves the beach and the water. He has no fear of water of any sort, whether swimming pool or Atlantic Ocean. I try not to be overly protective in those situations, but I’m never more than an arm’s length from his kamikaze self. As a someone who struggled with weight my whole life, and who dreaded going to the pool or the beach because I knew I’d be expected to take my shirt off, I love watching him completely enjoy the experience. I just wish he enjoyed it with a little less gusto.

Looking back at life with our first four, I regret that we weren’t able to relax and enjoy times like this more. I know that family vacations were always viewed with a mix of anticipation and dread, especially as the kids got older. Much of that stemmed from my own background in a pretty dysfunctional home, which I allowed to affect me for far too long. I’ve shared some of those struggles with my first four, in the hopes that they might understand and forgive me and the wife for at least some of our failings as parents while we tried to do our best. I’m trying to do better with Tobey.

All in all, it’s been a good trip. A few behavioral challenges when beach outings have to end, or bed time approaches while the rest of the family is still up and laughing. But if I put it into perspective, I can’t say the tantrums are any worse than what we might have experienced with the first four… just triggered more easily. If that’s the worst thing we have to deal with for the rest of the week, I think we’ll do just fine.

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