We wade into the aqua blue Caribbean that’s lapping at the white sand of Trunk Bay. I’m holding her hand, our masks and snorkels on. No fins (too easy!), but she’s wearing a floatie vest. Farther and farther out we go to where I eventually can’t reach the bottom. The aqua color morphs to turquoise, and coral blobs appear below us. We switch from treading to swimming, arms locked and faces down in the water.
At first the kicks are fast and furious, the breathing through the snorkel rapid and shallow. She darts her head around, and all I see is bubbles. Then we both slow down to a float. The scene becomes crystal clear before our eyes: schools of fish bob in formation with the current our bodies are also feeling. A ray glides by on the sandy sea floor. Dory darts in and out of a coral branch. My breathing slows, we look at each other underwater and smile, and I feel her hand squeeze my arm.
I’ve snorkeled many times as a child and an adult, but no snorkeling I’ve ever done could compare to these moments in the north shore bays of St John’s National Park. Yeah… the first time I witnessed angelfish in the waters of Hawaii as a 10 year old was pretty magical. Sure… the bright coral, anemones and giant clams of French Polynesia were an amazing sight back in the day and will probably never be seen again as pristine as they were in 1998… but it didn’t matter.
Having her next to me, experiencing underwater life for the first time, filled my heart in a new way. This time, I was learning through snorkeling.
Go Early And Often
The time at the ocean is early morning, when the sun is up but no one else is out. We would be the first car parked and choose an ideal spot in the sand (ideally one with some shade options). Beach time was filled with the creation of infinite sandy structures, sometimes mixed with leaves from tropical trees. But the fish… they were always best seen early in the morning. It’s when we saw the ray, the nurse shark, and the 6 ft tuna looking for their own breakfast. Just like in the water and in the sand, clarity and creativity are at their highest points in the mornings.
Don’t rush or you’ll pass right by the important stuff
I would sometimes dive in myself and get into my best crawl stroke rhythm for a quick journey away from shore. But once I stopped kicking and flailing and breathing so hard, it took a minute to focus. The life forms, the things I was looking for, would only come into view once I was still and relaxed. They were always below me, but I wasn’t seeing them in my haste. What else had I already missed? What beauty around me do I miss in everyday life because I’m too hurried to notice it?
Keep yourself strong
Because she’s just learning to swim, it was on me to be strong and confident for our snorkeling adventures. And let me tell you, having a toddler grabbing on you in deep water is not easy! I’m now inspired to swim more – something I’ve not focused on for years but would add a refreshing fitness challenge to my life again, now that rock climbing has taken a bit of a backseat. It reminded me (again) that I need to take care of myself, both physically and psychologically. She might be my teacher, but I’m her foundation.
Beach trips come and go… and maybe for those who live on a coast, they’re just your typical weekend. I’ll never forget this particular experience.
Have you ever experienced something very differently once you saw it through your child’s eyes? Share it and what you learned here!