Recently, my 9 year old son tentatively ventured into a rockpool and found this astonishingly beautiful starfish camouflaged by an intricate pattern of light pink, browns and greens. It was one of those magical moments that you dream of sharing with your children.
As we admired it, inwardly, I said a little prayer of thanks to myself, to my new boyfriend, to the starfish and to the beautiful sunny winter day.
Amidst our ongoing grief for my late husband (my son’s father) and the recent loss of my father (my son’s grandfather) – we are still delighting in and connecting to the mysteries of life.
Thank goodness we hadn’t stayed at home immersed in even more screen time.
We studied the starfish together and I watched wonder, joy and delight trickle through my son’s body and eyes. Just briefly he let go and became lost in the moment.
His heart and consequently mine became a little lighter.
A minute later he was back on dry rock at a safe distance from the pulsing tide. I could see that he had put back on his cloak of caution. He retreated with a snack watching my partner, my daughter and I, continue to fossick.
We found plenty more starfish but none as large or as beautiful as the one that he had found.
Much of the time my son wraps himself in a cloak of caution. Sometimes with extra layers of fear and anger. Wary of the world and life.
Observing. Not participating.
His cloak is often impenetrable.
It frustrates and saddens me.
Yet, I think I have an inkling of why he wears it.
For him, flowing with life with unbridled joy is an unfamiliar feeling.
Except for the first twelve months of his life, he has been surrounded by anxiety or grief. Almost every moment has been bittersweet.
Together we watched two of the most pivotal men in our lives fade due to diseases of the brain. First we watched his father succumb to the rollercoaster of terminal brain cancer. Then we grieved for his father while watching his grandfather deteriorate from Alzheimers disease.
My son’s life has been filled with a lot of love but not with much carefree joy.
Fortunately seeking joy, unstructured play and being outdoors is something that I and especially my partner, Darren, prioritise every day. For ourselves, my children and his children.
Darren has been true to his guest blog post several months ago – continuing to develop stepping stones of acceptance, trust and friendship with my kids. He has been generous with his time, love and patience, planning and enabling outdoors adventures for all of us.
We have encouraged and cajoled the kids to climb sand dunes and headlands, explore rock pools, scramble across rocks, swim in rock pools and snorkel. There have been many moments of protest and grizzling. But they have been more than offset by squeals of excitement, skipping, dancing, exploring and revelling in the natural surrounds.
Each adventure has nourished, rejuvenated and energised all of our spirits.
My son is starting to test and trust his abilities. To engage with the outdoors more and more. With every outing we see further glimpses of light and laughter. We smile when we hear him say “Let’s embrace this obstacle” or “Look at what I have found!”.
He still carries his cloak everywhere but he is wearing it a little less.