This weekend was the much-anticipated Homer Sea Week field trip.
We weren’t sure what to expect when our children’s school group planned a 3-day field trip over Mother’s Day weekend down to Homer, Alaska, which is a 4 – 5 hour drive from Anchorage (depending on road construction and which spouse is driving).
We certainly didn’t expect the majority of the school to make the trek, but trek we all did. Over 75% of us.
This particular weekend was selected due to extremely low tides, which provided optimal opportunities for exploring tide pools. Many marine treasures are hidden in these little pockets of salt water left by the ebbing tide:
Even the exposed rocks were fascinating, with their shaggy seaweed heads. The extremely low tides meant we could venture out to rocks that were usually underwater, where the barnacle colonies snapped, crackled, and popped like Rice Krispies.
There was something surreal about watching these plant-like animals sway about in their lifelong nests and filter feed in the salt water:
Walks on the beach provided a little window into Sam’s mind. As we walked along in silence, heads bent looking for saltwater treasures, he would throw out random thoughts, such as:
“Mommy, have you ever thought that after 6:00 people could say ‘Happy After-Afternoon!’ to each other?”
Ummmm, no Sam.
“Daddy, why do they call it the People’s Republic of China when they could just say China instead?”
Good question. Because China isn’t really a Republic, is it? It got me wondering: why is a Communist country referred to as a Republic, and why haven’t I ever wondered this myself until my 8-year-old son stumbled upon the thought?
And, of course, the one he had been asking for days: “Why don’t they call this Homer Sea Weekend?”
Oh the things we think about on the beach. I was mostly looking at Sam and remembering the little boy who used to be pathologically afraid of parking lots, flying insects, and loose teeth. And here he was, happily holding Gnome’s Toes and dead crabs:
Progress? I think so.
Tide pooling was a bit treacherous for Maggie, who insisted upon skipping across the slippery rocks and as a result took a few muddy baths in frigid sea water. To be fair, she always gets hand me down Xtra Tuffs from Sam and we learned a little too late that her boots had some gaping holes in addition to traction problems.
For Maggie, the social aspects of the weekend were a highlight and she decided to spend Saturday afternoon crafting with her friends. There were many tempting options: driftwood mobiles, shell painting, fish print t-shirts, and face painting. She had great times with her best buddies.
The kids learned so much this weekend. Their vocabulary now includes words such as peninsula and intertidal zone. They watched in horror as a flock of crows bullied an eagle from his perch atop a spruce tree, and gaped in wonder at a tiny crab who bravely crept from its tiny sea shell home. They know how it feels to touch a sea anemone and that some animals – like the barnacles – can only be heard when you surround yourself with silence.
That same silence also opened the door for our little boy to speak. A good lesson for us as parents, as well.
The kids also learned many valuable social lessons. On the drive to Homer we reminded them that there would be “different rules for different families.” Sam sighed and informed us, with great disappointment, that “our rules are always stricter.”
He’s right. We didn’t let our children build their own bonfires or climb down the sandy cliffs (for both environmental and safety reasons). We tried our best to give them autonomy with safe boundaries, while they did their best to ditch us whenever possible. In the end, for the most part, we watched from a distance while they made good choices without any prodding from us.
I did hold my breath once when I saw Maggie circumventing a moose. She’s the little pink blur trying avoid the young ungulate who visited our hotel:
This whole weekend got me thinking about a classic African proverb:
Of course it takes a village. Raising kids is such an enormous task that it would be impossible to do it alone. For all I know, my child was one of the kids dangling from a sandy cliff while I took a 10 minute potty break and ended up barricaded in my hotel room by a moose. (My children of course deny any cliff hanging activities, but they also frequently lie about brushing their teeth.)
When my children make mistakes, I hope no one judges us from the shoreline. I hope they send out a life raft, or maybe even dive in for a rescue. I hope they tell us what happened rather than everyone else on the beach. That’s the kind of village all children deserve, and the type I am so grateful to have found.
Those barnacles we saw this weekend find a rock and latch on for life.
Not so with children. They will ebb and flow between schools, friends, and (someday in a not-so-distant future that I don’t want to envision) possibly even us.
But for now, we get to enjoy this village. These moments, these rocks, and these tides.
It turns out a schoolwide excursion to Homer was a pretty fine way to spend Mother’s Day weekend.