My feet dug their way into the sand. Tiny pebbles filled the space between my toes just seconds before the ocean water washed them away. I stared up into the sun and let it warm my face. Heat radiated off of my skin and beckoned for my body to relax and breathe. I took in a mouthful of ocean air and released. This was the moment I had waited for, the moment on vacation when natural beauty has the power to instantly bring you back to life. I scanned the coastline of the island and filled my ears with the sound of crashing waves, when suddenly, it was over.

“She’s up!” My husband yelled.

This was the beginning of a new experience. One could call it a vacation, though never before had I been asked to taste pureed baby food on my way through airport security. Never before had I prayed for turbulence in hopes of putting my daughter to sleep. Not once had I ever offered to buy the passengers seated beside me, behind me, and up to eight rows ahead of me a stiff American Airlines cocktail.

Even before the trip had begun, it was as though I was preparing for our first family vacation to a remote corner of the world.

“Well, you’ll certainly need plenty of extra wipes,” a mommy friend had reminded me. “Who knows what wipes are made of in the Caribbean.”

“And don’t forget to order that baby sun shade I was telling you about,” stated another parent. “It’s SPF 185 and hooks right onto the infant lounge chair I sent you the link for.”

I had encouraged my husband to hit the gym for weeks prior, but not because he required toning. Oh, no; he needed to bulk up his arms to prepare for the sheer amount of equipment he would carry throughout our journey.

It was during the first few days of our adventure that I realized the new level of acceptance we needed to reach. The three books I had squeezed into one of our eight pieces of luggage would not be touched. My new iTunes playlist would be replaced by nursery rhymes and toddler tunes. Days under the umbrella would help to maintain a perfect shade of pale. Our relationship with hotel housekeeping would transform from pleasant to volatile. Conversations past 8pm would be kept to a whisper. Drinks on a moonlit beach would become a distant memory.

The new normal was upon us, and it was time to embrace it. It was time to say goodbye to our days of freedom, our moments of relaxation, our care-free mentality. It was time to welcome dirty diapers in the sand, midday naps in the hotel room, and waking up before the sunrise.

A few deep breaths later, I said farewell to my moment of solace by the ocean and peered up to see my husband dipping my daughter’s toes into the ocean. Her smile lit up her entire face as she made the teeniest splash with her feet. Her gentle giggle drew a crowd as they stared in appreciation of such simple, pure happiness. My heart immediately melted at the sound of her laugh and the sheer look of excitement on her face. As my family stood before my eyes, this sudden wave of emotion came over me that left me feeling a new sense of pride.

My daughter’s giggle drowned out the sound of the ocean. Watching her smile grow made me lose sight of anything else around me. In that instant, I stopped staring into the sun and stared into the beauty of my own life. I couldn’t wait to jump in.

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