On crabs, castles, kids, and letting go

It was the last day of our beach vacation at Sandbridge, Virginia—the last night that my two young-adult children and I would be together for several months. Rachel was heading to college in Ohio, and Nicolas was just starting to live his independent life outside of our nuclear family.

We decided to build a sand castle, and while digging the trench, Rachel scared up a large crab. It ran away from the shore and under one of our beach chairs, camouflaging itself with a fine layer of sand. I tried several times to shoo it down toward the water, but it always ended up back under the chair.

“Mom, let’s go for a walk on the beach,” Nicolas said.

Wasn’t it me, not that long ago, that was asking him to go for walks—finding time and place for uninterrupted teaching moments?

“Mom,” Nicolas said sternly, “you’ve got to stop feeling responsible for so much! Let the crab go. He’ll take care of himself!”

crab castle

We talked then of how I can let go when I feel secure. Right now I’m confident Nicolas is equipped to take complete care of himself, and I believe Rachel is ready for her next adventure at her conservatory.

But it’s the NOT knowing–the wondering whether someone or something is suffering—that’s hard for me to take. My children seem solid now, but will they always be? What if something happens later that I can’t protect them from? What if they need help, and I’m not there?

“The crab is not yours to worry about, Mom. Let it go,” Nicolas repeated as he gave me a hug at the end of our walk. And so I resisted the urge to try once more to coerce the crab from under the chair and out toward the water.

Right at sunset we were down at the beach again, taking a few pictures for memories’ sake. As we were folding the beach chairs up for the night, I was relieved to find the crab gone.

“Mom!” Rachel said as she pointed to our castle. Sand was flying out of a hole in one of the top tiers.

We stood still and quiet. A crab that was exactly the right size came out of the opening, saw us all, and darted back down again.

Nicolas and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Because I let go, the crab got it’s castle. Because I am letting go, my children will sculpt their lives with their own hands.

And maybe, someday, they’ll even live in castles by the sea.



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