The most enriching part of motherhood, for me, is the opportunity to learn.
My children learn, yes. But what I learn from them is even better.
They help me relearn things I’ve forgotten during my journey through life.
One of my favorite things to do is search for shells. The girls like the water, but they’re still a little leery of it, so they usually join me in the sand, digging for those tiny prehistoric-looking crabs and looking for shells.
I love them all; the small ones, the large ones, the tiny ones that you can never capture because the water steals it from your grasp as soon as you reach for it. There is a constant search for the elusive (and still intact) abandoned conch shell. (We found a beautiful conch once that wasn’t completely abandoned. And, man, did it stink.) And finding shark’s teeth is always a good way to pass some time, although anything black with a “point” is considered a shark’s tooth to the little people in my life.
The girls were bringing me shell after shell; adding them to our collection with great triumph.
“Aren’t these pretty Mommy?”
“Haven’t you always wanted a shell like this one Mama?”
I wasn’t always looking at what they were putting in the buckets; I was just loving the quality time with them.
Suddenly, I discovered I was holding a bucket full of broken seashells. And there were a few other buckets in varying levels of fullness, too.
I started rifling through the containers, sorting the whole ones from the not-so-whole ones, the dainty ones from the clunkers that were dappled with holes and other smaller shells, the gnarled ones from the more polished ones.
“Mommy? What are you doing with my beautiful seashells?”
I explained to her that they weren’t the prettiest ones in the bucket, and we were going to throw them back. We had so many shells to take home; we didn’t need all the imperfect ones.
She stuck out her bottom lip, and I could see the tears welling up in her eyes.
“But you can’t throw them back. They are beautiful and they are all mine now because I found them.”
I thought about it for a minute; what would we do with several buckets of broken seashells?
You can’t do anything with them — they are broken. They are ugly. They are pretty useless.
But after seeing how much it upset my daughters that all of their hard shell-searching work was for nothing, I decided to haul them all home.
We washed them, we let them air out. They were ready to be something, to do something. I just had no idea what.
Then, I remembered a ginormous glass jar (in a beautiful shade of pale water-inspired aquamarine) Chad & I received as a wedding present. The shells would fit nicely. I could make it work.
I wanted the girls to enjoy their shells every day, so we placed the jar in the kitchen on the bookcase. It looks right at home. And the girls love looking through the glass at the shells, trying to recall who found which shell a few weeks ago.
Our plan is to add to our collection and fill it to the brim. Those shells, even the imperfect ones, hold memories that I will cherish forever — and I’m sure the girls will, too.
The point of all of that is this: the girls retaught me something.
There is beauty in nearly every single thing we touch.
And, sometimes we need to remember to really look before we decide to give up on something we were looking for.