Building Sand Castles that Last
By Diane Stark
“We gotta fill my bucket all the way up to the top, Mommy,” my three-year-old son Nathan said. He was standing on the beach, holding a green sand bucket and wearing Thomas the Train swim trunks.
“OK, Buddy, let’s fill it up,” I said, plopping down in the sand and starting to dig.
He knelt down next to me and grinned. “Let’s build a bunch of sand castles and surprise Daddy with them,” he said.
My husband was playing in the waves with our older children. I could hear them laughing and shouting as they tried to dunk him. I waved at them and then smiled at Nathan. “Daddy will be so excited to see what you made.”
Ten minutes later, the sand bucket was full and ready to be dumped out into a perfect little sand castle. “Where do you want me to put our first castle?” I asked Nathan.
“Right here,” he said, pointing to the sand at his feet.
“We can’t put it right here,” I said. “The water will wash it away as soon as I dump out the bucket.”
“I want it right here,” he said.
“But it won’t work, Buddy, because the waves will ruin it.”
“That’s OK. Then we can just build another one.” He shrugged. “It’ll be fun.”
I sighed, figuring the only way to make him understand was to do as he asked and let him see what would happen. I only hoped he wouldn’t be too upset when that first wave destroyed his creation.
But when the water came and washed away his castle, he jumped up and down and clapped his hands. “That was great! Let’s do it again!”
We filled up the bucket for a second time, and again, Nathan insisted on dumping it out right in the path of every single wave that would crash onto the shore.
The third time, I walked up to the dry sand and dumped the bucket there. “Look, Nathan, the waves won’t get it up here,” I said. “Isn’t that better?”
But he scowled and folded his arms across his chest. “No, I don’t want to build my castles all the way up here.”
“But don’t you want to build them where they will last?”
He stuck out his lower lip. “Mommy, I just want to do it down there. It’s more fun.”
“But up here, the water won’t…” I began to argue. And that’s when I noticed tears in my little boy’s eyes. “Is it really more fun when the waves wash away the sand castles?”
“Yes,” he said. “Can we please just build them down there?”
“Of course we can, Buddy,” I said, feeling guilty that I’d nearly made him cry. Building sand castles was supposed to be fun.
We moved back down to the water and built half a dozen more sand castles, none of which lasted more than ten seconds. I still didn’t understand, but when Nathan grinned and said, “This is really fun, Mommy,” I decided I was done trying to persuade him to change building locations.
When the rest of our family joined us on the beach, the kids said, “I thought you guys were going to build sand castles.”
I smirked and said, “We have been. We’ve built several, but the waves keep washing them away.”
“Does he know that that won’t happen if he builds them up there?” My oldest son asked, pointing at the dry sand.
I rolled my eyes. “He knows. I even showed him, and all it did was nearly make him cry.”
While we were talking, my younger children had sat down in the sand with Nathan and helped him fill up his sand bucket. They dumped it out and watched the waves wash it away. They looked at one another, smiled, and started doing it again.
I looked at my husband, Eric, and said, “I don’t know how they can stand to do that. It was driving me crazy, spending all the time building something that was just going to be washed away moments later.”
Eric smiled. “It would bug me too, but to them, the fun is in the building, no matter how long it lasts.”
“It’s important to me to spend my time building things that last,” I said.
Standing on that beach, Eric smiled and reached for my hand. “You are, Babe,” he said quietly.
I thought about my life at home. Nothing I did there ever seemed to last. I prepared dinners that were completely consumed ten minutes after I placed them on the table. I washed dishes, and then washed the same dishes the next day. Same deal with the laundry for seven people. I mopped floors only to see someone dirty them on their first trip in from the back yard.
My life was like those sand castles in the wet sand. All of my efforts were washed away by a giant wave called Family Life. Nothing I did lasted beyond the moment.
But as I watched my children digging in the sand, laughing and playing together, I realized that my husband was right. I am building something important, something that will last forever.
I’m building a family.
About this writer
- Diane Stark is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. Her work has been published in 16 Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, A Cup of Comfort for Christian Women and dozens of magazines. She loves to write about the important things in life: her family and her faith.