The beach wasn’t exactly what I would call silent. There were quite a few people there: picnickers, beachcombers, even another family with two kids. Everyone was out enjoying the spectacular day, chatting and calling to each other. The waves were rattling the rocks around and seagulls were squawking overhead. In the midst of it all was a lone woman, sitting by herself and facing away from all the action. She appeared to be reading, journaling, sketching or otherwise occupied in quiet contemplation.
So of course that’s the direction my kids headed. They charged by her yelling at the top of their lungs on their way to some rocks they wanted to climb.
I winced because I always wonder: should I let them do that? Should I let them make a ruckus in the outdoors when there are others around?
There seem to be two camps on this issue:
Camp One: People head to the outdoors for solitude and reinvigoration, and parents should support that by keeping their children quiet and respectful.
Camp Two: The outdoors is for everyone and if we want children to be comfortable in it, we need to let them act like children, which sometimes includes hollering your way across a beach. (For example.)
The problem? There is absolutely no way to tell whether someone falls into Camp One or Camp Two until they are either smiling or glaring at the short people who have disturbed their peace.
As so often happens in the great debates of modern life, I find myself right in the middle of the two camps. I try to be respectful. I encourage my kids to leave space between themselves and others and I don’t allow straight up screaming. However, I’m also not going to shush them on a mountaintop for nothing more than general, good-natured exuberance.
When it looked like their merriment was not going to abate anytime soon, I walked across the beach after them to ask them to keep it a little quieter. As I did, I passed the woman whose peace we had so rudely disturbed and smiled sheepishly at her, wondering if she fell into Camp One or Camp Two. “Sorry,” I said.
She smiled back. “Oh, no problem! I love to see them enjoying themselves!”
Lucked out. This time.
So serene. As long as you don’t know my kids were fighting over a stick ten feet to my left.