By Andrea Hagan
I love shelling. It combines some of my favorite things – the beach, physical activity, solitude and attention to detail. Planning for one of my family’s upcoming Florida trips, I (naively) thought that it was time to introduce my daughter to my beloved pastime.
I envisioned us as a great mother-daughter beachcombing duo. What fun we would have on our hunt and even better, getting our treasure back home where we would eagerly sort and proudly display our fighting conchs, kitten paws, shark’s eyes, maybe even a prized alphabet cone or two!
Then there was the reality of shelling with a toddler. One of the best shelling spots in Southwest Florida takes some effort to reach. We set off on bikes for the first stretch, my husband pulling our daughter and her baby brother in the bike trailer. The second leg requires a one-mile walk along the beach. My husband pushes our son in the bike trailer and our daughter gets out and takes my hand. It’s the perfect day for shelling and I smile, excited to create this new tradition with my daughter.
That is until I spot the first fighting conch. l let go of my toddler’s hand to pick it up and put it in my bag and she whines, “Mom, hold my hand.” This is my daughter’s latest annoying toddler behavior. In public, she demands I hold her hand, regardless if I’m holding her brother and a diaper bag plus a bag of groceries, she goes into complete hysterics if I let go of her hand for a split second. I’m not sure if this is a power struggle, jealousy of her brother, or if she’s becoming Howard Hughes, afraid of people and being in public in general. So I explain to her that we are shelling and that when we see a pretty shell, we stop and pick it up and I need my other hand to do that. Two steps later and I spot another shell, and again, “Mom, hold my hand.” “Mom, hold my hand.” “Mom, hold my hand.” “MOM, HOLD MY HAND!”
Now, some of you might be thinking, what a terrible mom complaining that her daughter wants to hold her hand. I implore you to listen to “Mom, hold my hand” for 150 times, each whine becoming higher in octave and louder than the Gulf of Mexico crashing against the shoreline before you lose your (sea glass) marbles! My husband tried to help, but he’s pushing baby brother in a bike trailer, not an easy feat on baby powder fine sand. Eventually, my daughter has a complete meltdown and we are forced to put her in the trailer too, which makes strolling on the beach difficult and shelling less than enjoyable.
One mile in means one mile out. We try to let our daughter walk on the return trip, and it’s still the broken record of “Mom, hold my hand,” but now sprinkled in is, “Mom, hold me” with “Mom, this is too much walking, Can you hold me?” The hallmark picture perfect mother-daughter shelling tradition that I envisioned sinks right to the bottom of the Gulf and is carried over to Keewaydin Island, probably with the alphabet cone.
I did add a few shells to my collection on that trip. Just don’t hold the fighting conch up to your ear because all you’ll hear is whine.