What a difference two weeks can make.
Yesterday I brought Ryan back to Harbor Island. "Sprinkler!" he demanded. I grabbed the towel I happened to have stashed in the car and we headed for the sprinkler park on the beach. I hadn't brought swimsuits, but I figured Hey, how wet do we ever get at the sprinklers?
First, we found some rocks and threw them into the ocean. I asked Ryan if he wanted to take off his sneakers and socks. "Take off your shoes," he agreed. Shock #1.
He asked me to carry him so his feet wouldn't have to touch the sand. I picked him up and waded out into the water. I made a game of dipping his feet in the water; he enjoyed it. Shock #2.
Through a series of baby steps, Ryan wound up playing independently in the ocean. Barefoot. Naked, except for a pull-up (and later underwear when I thought better of it). Collecting slimy sheets of seaweed and piling them on a buoy. Pushing me out of the water, then grabbing handfuls of wet sand and burying my feet with them. Running up and down the beach barefoot. Having a fantastic time, like a regular kid. Shocks #3 - 50.
A bratty 4-year-old girl tried to burst my bubble. She saw me holding a pull-up-clad Ryan out of the water, and she asked me, "Is he a baby?" No, he's not. "Then why is he wearing a diaper?" I never know how much I should bother engaging the brat in these encounters; I opted for minimally.
When Ryan ran barefoot all the way back to our towel, and then wandered over to the sprinkler park, I couldn't contain my pride. And I was alone - no camera, no phone, no one to brag to. So I babbled for a moment at the nearest grandmother; she graciously made like she understood why I was so excited.
Today, to reinforce the "yay, this is fun" thing, Stu and I brought Ryan to Harbor Island again, this time slightly better prepared. Again, he truly enjoyed splashing in the water, walking on the sand, picking up seaweed. He even walked barefoot on some very rough concrete that I found uncomfortable to stand on. We watched a kite flying. He chased seagulls. I showed him dead crabs, which he grabbed from me and threw into the sea. I wrote his name in the sand and he "erased" the letters with his hand.
It was a perfect beach day, one that I didn't think we would ever be lucky enough to enjoy.