Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Not waving but drowning?

The ocean beach we visited on Sunday had the most fantastic surf. Big, wide rollers, breaking just meters from the shore, ideal for body surfing. Or so I used to think when I was about 15. Back then, on my favourite Hong Kong beach, I liked nothing better than standing just far enough out to catch a wave, paddle in on the crest, and come crashing down onto the sand in the shallows. There was something exhilarating about it, and I could do it for hours. When I went to bed at night, I could feel the motion and swell of the waves in my sleep.

I used to scoff at my mum and the other women, who never swam in the sea when it was rough and certainly didn't body surf. It was always the Dads and the teens who went in, while the Mums sat sedately on their beach towels reading magazines and chatting.

And now? I stand there in the shallows, just out of reach of the crashing of the waves. I know that the best place to swim would be further out, where you can swim through the waves or body surf, but something is preventing me. I have lost my nerve. What was once enticing and thrilling now seems frightening. Fear of drowning, fear of being dragged out to sea by a current, whatever it is makes me apprehensive about going in. It takes me a good 15 minutes to summon up the courage, and then I go in for about five. But I am constantly on my guard for big waves breaking over my head, and I am fairly relieved to get out, although it still feels good afterwards with the salt on my skin drying in the ocean breeze.

So what has changed? Is it motherhood that makes us fearful- a knowledge of responsibility for someone other than just ourself? Is it more awareness of the bad things that could happen; more stories of drowning, related over the years; more ridiculous shark films? Or is it a more mundane fear of coming out of the sea looking dishevelled and pummelled by the waves, bathing suit hanging half off, unbefitting of a mother of two? Maybe I'm more happy just paddling on the edge with the Littleboys, or swimming in the calmer sea of Long Island Sound.

I'm not sure, but what I do see on the beach is Dads, kids and teenagers swimming in the surf. And hardly any women aged over about 20. Somewhere, somehow, we lose our nerve.

12 comments:

Potty Mummy said...

Too blxxdy true. I remember jumping off rowing boats into deep deep crystal clear water in the med in my early twenties. Would I do it now? No way. Age makes wusses of us all!

Nota Bene said...

Experience, seeing too many scary films and reading rubbish newspapers...

Iota said...

I think it's motherhood. Always looking out for the dangers for little children somehow makes one fearful for everyone.

Mom/Mum said...

here here. I freaked out on a pirate ship ride at alocal fairground not too long ago. I was sweaty and stressed and convinced I was going to die and who would have my children, house, old issues of Elle etc....I used to LOVE that ride in my yoof.I'd never hang onto the safety rail. This time, I clung on for dear life.
Annnyway - have just been catching up on your recent posts and it sounds like you're settling in over here.
I had to laugh at you liking Moose on Noggin. I like him too, and for US kids TV, it aint so bad is it? But when I first moved here and all the Moms were talking Noggin this and Noggin that, I thought it was a store or a brand of baby food!
Long Island sounds fab.
And you're right - no-one does call it a Girls Night Out here do they? It's Moms Night Out, or, "Fancy a MNO?"
Anyway, will keep up with your posts a bit better than I have. Am fascinated to read how you're getting on.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

I think it is motherhood too - we spend so long looking around and looking for the danger that we can't see through it.

Do you think, in our 60s, when our kids are all grown up (and in those big scary waves) we'll get our nerve back? I do hope so. Body surfing was fun.

A Confused Take That Fan said...

You are so right. I used to be in the sea doing a rolly polly, handstands, seeing how long I could stay underwater on one breath, now I barely go in the water except to wash the sand off my feet. Daddy goes in with the girls whilst I sit on the beach checking they are all ok trying to read a book. Where did the fun go??

http://reluctantmemsahib.wordpress.com said...

it's motherhood. that makes us more fearful. it hones our sense of mortality. x

nappy valley girl said...

PM - I might jump off a rowing boat, but only if I knew that there was nothing unsavoury underneath. Which is tricky.

NB - what do you mean rubbish newspapers? I only ever look at the FT ;-)

Iota - What I dread most is when the children start to swim in the waves themselves...

Mom/Mum - Moose rocks, doesn't he? Noggin is pretty good, apart from its tendency to show the same programme five times in a row....

Brit in Bosnia - body surfing grannies? I do hope so.

CTTF - I used to spend my whole time in swimming pools underwater. Now, my ears just get blocked. Being a grown-up sucks.

RM - perhaps it's having gone through childbirth that does it? Suddenly you realise what pain is that you're not invincible....

SandyCalico said...

It must be motherhood. You're protective of yourself and your family. And I think that's a good thing.

Expat mum said...

I don't know whether it's motherhood or age - in that we've seen all the horrible, and unforeseeable, things that can go wrong. I am the same with skiing. Where once I used to just hurtle down something, I'm now worrying about twisting my knee or hitting a toddler (not that I'm usually on the same slopes I hasten to add!)

Bush Mummy said...

Yup defo motherhood.. I used to be so gung ho.. now I flap at the first sign of rough sea or an open window..

BM x

nappy valley girl said...

Sandy - very wise words.

Expat Mum - well, I was never a courageous skier, having only learned in my 20s, but you're right, you hardly ever see mothers skiing a black run with their kids.

BM - maybe it's an evolutionary thing?