Ben may have a new fear of lifeguards. Oops.
I took the boys to the town beach today, also known as Wright’s Pond, which is actually a small lake or gigantic pond (what is the difference??). It’s a clean, fresh lake only open to town residents. It’s a short drive away (or bike ride, but it’s up a hill, and pulling both kids in the trailer uphill these days is no walk in the park, so to speak). It boasts a big sandy beach, lifeguards, concession stand, changing rooms, outdoor showers, restrooms, a playground (two, actually), trails in the woods….a pretty excellent “summer playground,” quite honestly.
We all swam for a while, me and the boys: this means Max is swimming along in his mask and snorkel, gathering crowds of older boys who are only wearing swim goggles and are clearly fascinated with his gear…
…and Ben, wanting me to hold his body as he practices swimming, or else asking me to “throw me up in the air and catch me where I’m going to land” (or sometimes “don’t catch me” but I always do, to some degree). They love being in the water.
Eventually Ben wanted to dig in the sand instead. Max wanted me to stay in the water with him until an older kid asked him to help dig a huge hole in the sand. Max agreed immediately, and I got to sit on the blanket and read, glancing up often to make sure they were still on the sand.
Then the screaming. Ben came running up the beach, bee-lining right at me, emitting an earsplitting, nonstop shriek. I put down my New Yorker and watched him approach. He stopped short in front of me and quieted when I put my finger to my lips.
“Are you OK, honey?” I asked, knowing he was. It was one of his screaming-to-make-noise screams, not a scream of fear or pain.
“Ben, you can’t scream like that. If you scream when you’re not hurt or not in danger, the lifeguard–” I jerked my thumb to the right, to indicate the lifeguard stand we were near– “will blow his whistle at you. And he will say, ‘Hey, you! You need to be quiet! You can’t scream unless you are having a problem! Be quiet, please!’ So please keep it down, okay?”
Ben glanced furtively at the lifeguard, then back at me, his eyes wide.
“Now,” I continued. “Are you hungry, sweety? Do you want a plum?”
He nodded. I held out a plum to him. He pulled my hand to his mouth to eat the plum, glancing at the lifeguard between bites. He didn’t make a sound.
The lifeguard, when I glanced over, was watching Ben and smiling big, like he was trying not to laugh.
Then Ben indicated he was done, and with a last glance at the lifeguard, he turned and ran back to his digging work.
Some time later, he came up to me, shivering.He wanted to sit for a while, but only if I rinsed his feet off first (he told me very quietly), so I carried him to the water, swished his feet, carried him back up to the blanket, and wrapped him in a towel. I positioned his drink so he could just lean over and sip from the straw; then I went to join Max in his “work.”
Ben, wrapped in his towel, watched us solemnly…and kept turning his head to look at the lifeguard. I think he was still expecting to get whistled at if he let out so much as a peep.
Hopefully next time we go he’ll be more relaxed about the lifeguard and not be in fear that the lifeguard will target him for noise violations.
On the bright side…quiet’s not so bad!