During our beach vacation this summer, I built countless sand castles with my boys. I use the word “castle” loosely, as our only real success was with moats, hills and the occasional sand bridge.
Our neighbors on the beach, however, were masters. The family crew was also composed of two young boys armed with sturdy digging shovels. Like us, they carefully positioned themselves on the beach where the sand was damp enough to ensure the castles (or hills) kept their shape.
I watched each day as they created their castle kingdom over a period of three, four or five hours. Their pace was slow, always allowing time to catch a hermit crab, enjoy a snack or ride the waves. Like other artists, they took great pride in their work, and I’m sure their photos received many ‘Likes’ online.
What amazed me most about their castle was not its build, but rather its destruction. Each day, the foreman (aka Dad) made sure to lead the multiple moats towards the ocean. I initially thought this was a design detail but, as the sun was setting and his children were home eating dinner, I realized the true purpose. Their father sat beside the castle kingdom, alone, witnessing the tide slowly and methodically wash away their creation.
When I spoke with him, the father explained that this was his favorite part – watching the sand castles slip away into the ocean. After seeing him work all day on the structure, I was shocked that he found such pleasure in this, but, after some reflection and observation, I now understand.
Letting go of the castle was as important as its creation – it served a role in his family’s life that day and, as dusk settled, its purpose was gone. The builder wore a smile of contentment and reflection as the waters dampened, and then eliminated, the tiered towers. He stared at the castle the same way I now reflect on the long dog days of summer with my kids.
My family and I have had hundreds of magical moments, late nights, hours of laughter, and plenty of fights. We created castles, played games, caught butterflies, swam in rainstorms, shared meals, climbed mountains, collected crabs and sought other adventures.
Now it’s time to let all of this go. It’s time to wash away the days of summer and let the routines of Fall and the newness of a budding school year captivate our time and energy. Other than our bronze skin, little evidence of summer’s magic remains. That father on the beach taught me to embrace this; he reminded me that for everything there is a time and a purpose.
And so, as September beckons, I too sit with contentment and gratitude on my face. I eagerly await the journeys the school year brings but first, I must stop to let the last grains of summer sand wash away… knowing that all my children need to keep from our magical summer is already inside of them.