Beach Benefits for the Littlest of Souls - Community Contributor
I am so excited to introduce our very own Dr. Kellie to the blog. Kellie Flock PA is our go-to gal at the pediatricians office here on the Outer Banks. She's walked me through some scary kid health issues and she has walked with me through some "kindly stop Web MDing your child's rash" issues and she makes me a better mom just by being her! I mean... Lady P dressed up as Kellie for Halloween two years ago. THAT'S how special this lady is!
I was so excited to chat about the possibility of Kellie becoming a contributor to the blog because she is such a huge asset to the Outer Banks Community both professionally and as a mom. So naturally, when she wrote this piece I just couldn't wait to share it!
I'll stop rambling so you can hear from the real reason you are here today! Without furthur introduction, Kellie shares her beautiful heart below! <3
This post is supposed to be about the beach. And how good it is for the soul. And how great it is for the littlest of those souls – our kiddos. But, I can’t really write about that without explaining and describing the little soul that lives in my house. She really is the most incredible kid I know. Not because she fought back from death’s door at less than 24 hours old or anything – oh wait, yes - that. She did that. And then when doctors said that she would never roll over, sit, crawl, or talk? Yeah, she did that too. As if in a cruel twist of fate, a person who takes care of everyone else’s children and fixes all of their ills, has a baby with a condition that can’t be “fixed.” (This is the point where you shake your hands upwards a bit and say, “really?!”) She has cerebral palsy. But, what she also has is the most determined, hard-working, and happy spirit I’ve ever known. What I’m learning as I weave my way through this super confusing, convoluted web they call parenting: 1) This is hard. Not like, “uggh I really need to get up for work, but my bed is so comfy” hard, but like HARD. 2) You get the child you need and who needs you, not the child you necessarily thought you wanted. 3) She doesn’t need “fixed.” She was never broken – I was, and the truth is – she’s fixing me every day. Now that I’ve made you tear up and stop reading to go hug your little people fiercely, let’s resume what this post is all about. Why has my child, who was never supposed to do “anything,” been able to do so much? There are many answers to that question, but I have to toot our horns as parents for a moment and say that the main reason is us. Not because we’re crazy intelligent, put together, wealthy rocket scientists (ummmm we’re not… more like average IQs, wet hair, sandy messy house, did I pay the cable bill this month? peeps), but because we look at our kid and what she needs, not what we or she wants, but what she really needs and we give her that. Food? Check. Warm bed? Check. Physical therapy? Occupational therapy? Speech therapy? You got it. But, that’s the easy stuff. What makes children really thrive, our own child even more so, is experience. Their brains develop more in the first few years than they ever will again and what feeds that development is their raw, uninhibited experiences. And this my friends, is where living at the beach becomes the quintessential winning lottery ticket of parenting and child development. (I know… it took me forever to get here, didn’t it?) The beach and its sandy shores and abundant water allow children to tap into auditory, vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile stimulation like no other. That’s fancy talk for – your kid is going to be really happy playing there. The sand serves as an open ended medium allowing wee ones to just sit and feel, while older kids will use their imaginations to serve up an endless variety of sand creatures. Physical development (both fine and gross motor skills) will surge as your little one sits, digs, and pours. Socially, they will interact with the others around them, also enjoying the wet sandy playground, and soon you’ll be witness to sharing, compromising, problem solving, and negotiations between your mini folk. Listening to the noises of birds calling, waves rolling, and the wind blowing gives ample opportunity to mimic new tones and sounds. Walking on uneven ground and navigating moving water allows the new walker to hone his skills and the speedy toddler to try new tricks. Suddenly, the immature infant, the precocious toddler, the curious school age kid, and even (if we’re really lucky) the dark and stormy teenager are all on common ground. The physically abled and very disabled all have something to intrigue their senses. And if you stop and really look, you might notice that you’re quite intrigued too. I can write all day long about the proposed benefits of the beach around us and you’ll just have to trust that I’m correct. Truly, you need to take the time to experience (not just go, but experience it) yourself and allow your tribe of mini yous to do the same. What I can tell you is that I watched my infant with clenched fists and stiff limbs visibly soften and relax the first time I laid her on my chest next to the ocean at 6 weeks of age. I can remember like it was yesterday the first time she smiled and squinted her eyes in the sunlight and the way her breath caught when the wind blew around her. I can promise you that she gained the confidence to try to support herself the first time when I tirelessly dug a sand “Bumbo” so she could finally sit up and play independently. I can show you pictures of the first time she sat without her sand chair and tell you that it was because she was so curious about the shells all around her that she just had to see them for herself. I can play you a video of the day that she laughed like we have never heard her laugh before as the waves lapped at her sandy toes. Or the day that she said “bird” and “dog” as she watched them pass back and forth in front of her on the shore. Many parents of children with cerebral palsy have asked how we can live in such a remote area with a child with so many complex needs. “Do you even have specialists there?” “There can’t possibly be schools equipped to deal with her needs on an island?” “Surely you have therapies she isn’t getting where you live?” No, we don’t. Yes, you’re probably right. And of course, there are lots of therapies we don’t have access to. What we do have, is my kid’s happy place. The place where she gets more therapy than we will ever find in a big city or hospital. The beach. And that means, it’s my happy place too.