Except when they're not.
So last Saturday, while 15-foot high waves had the lifeguards momentarily distracted, the elementary school set took over the jetties. I was on duty with Seth and Jesse, who spent the day either squabbling with each other ("Mom! He's being annoying again!") or hunting for crabs.
Yup, on the darned jetties.
I let them for a while, then, as the storm-fueled tide was beginning to rush back in, decided that jetty-time was up. "Off the rocks, now!" I ordered Seth (Jesse was already back at the blanket, digging a new home for his crabs).
After a few minutes of negotiation, he complied. But making his way toward me, Seth slipped on one of the barnacle-covered boulders and went flipping over. Wham! He hit his head--hard--on a rock and began emitting a high-pitched, unearthly wail that I'm still hearing in my sleep.
I knew we were heading for the hospital, but figured I'd have 20 minutes to get ready. So I dragged Seth, wailing away, up to the lifeguard stand for an ice pack, eyeballing Jesse to make sure he was still digging near our blanket.
No ice pack, so I headed for the beach office, another 100 feet away. With Seth settled with an ice pack and a lifeguard/EMT soothing him, I ran back to the beach for Jesse.
Nowhere in sight.
With what I can only describe as the hot flush of fear cascading throughout my body, I ran back to the beach office. "My other child is gone," I blurted out, feeling terrified and foolish.
The beach patrol and police were duly summoned as I repeated the description for the various authorities: "Shaggy brown hair, yellow beach shirt and blue bathing suit."
Meanwhile, Seth slumped on the bench, moaning and vacant-eyed.
Within ten minutes, my little runaway was found, paraded down the boardwalk in tears. We hugged hard, cried together and had a brief but very stern discussion.
Then, back to my head-bump boy. I wrapped Seth in a towel, grabbed our overloaded beach cart and began walking the boys back to our house. I had my plan: I'd drop Jesse with my father-in-law, shower the sand off me and Seth, grab my handbag and head for the hospital.
Then Seth proceeded to puke...copiously.
I ran for one of the summer cops who were relaxing nearby, who turned pale and said "I'll get first aid."
"You mean an ambulance?" I asked.
He nodded. "Calm, calm, calm," I whispered to myself.
My older son and father in law met us on the boardwalk with my handbag, everyone at this point either crying or near tears.
The EMTs placed my pale, skinny Seth on a stretcher, I hugged my two crying boys and climbed into the ambulance.
Then we sat, in a hallway of the ER, for the next six hours. "We've all climbed on the jetties as kids," said the doctor."It's a rite of passage. He'll be fine."
The plan was: an evaluation, a CAT scan and home.
But then Seth drank a glass of water.
And...yup...proceeded to vomit, in great arching arcs. All over himself and me.
"Hmmm," the nurse said, frowning. "You know he'll have to stay overnight now, right?"
And so, Seth and I shared a room, him on a hospital bed and me on a too-short cot within hand-holding range. And there we stayed for the next 20 hours, unchanged, unshowered and...thankful just to be safe and be together.
And the jetties?