School is out. Summer is here. We live in California where summer is hot and we all head to the water or beach for some relief. Most southern californians head to the beach. Too feel the wind in our hair, to smell the salty air, and to squish our toes in the sand. Tons of little toes are seen in the sand, running up and down the beach, shoeless and carefree. But, what about those whose little toes don’t like to be in the sand? When the sand doesn’t feel good to the touch, when the feeling of sand in your shoes makes you feel like screaming. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have had to clean shoes of sand, even microscopic grains of sand that aren’t visible to the human eye. But to someone with sensory issues, that one sand granual feels like a million sand granuals. It can feel like shards of glass poking into the bottom of their feet. It bothers the *#$^ out of them, and they can’t ignore it. It has to be eliminated, and that is easier said than done. The same goes for sand in bathing suits, sand in clothes, sand in the carseat, sand in hair, etc. These all present issues and spark tears.
So, how do you survive a summer without sand? Without beach? Without water? You could. You could stay inside with the air conditioning and the tv on all day long. But, we don’t do that. We are doers and makers around here. We are creators and thinkers and dreamers. Screen time is limited, and yes, it is a fight, but that’s how I roll. So, we go on adventures in summer and make memories. We go to the beach, and the water, we get hot and sweaty, and we have had to develop our own tricks to ease sensory issues when they come up. Which, at the beach, is every time. Piper usually doesn’t want to go to the beach, but we go. We struggle and we cry, but we also laugh and spend priceless moments together. So, we go.
Our main struggle is to keep water and sand from mixing. I know, what the heck am I talking about? That’s crazy. So, when Piper’s little toes are in dry sand, they are okay and happy. When they are in water they are okay and happy too. But, when they get out of the water and sand sticks to the little toes, the toes are unhappy and they get very upset. So, after we are done in the water, we pick Piper up, carry her from the water and set her and her feet down on a dry, sand free towel. She sits there until her feet are perfectly dry and there is not a speck of wet sand on them. Do not ask her to put even flip flops on her feet after the beach. No footwear of any kind until after a bath. The beach is a feat, and sadly, Piper usually does not go in the water because she is well aware of the aftermath. The beach is often is an exercise in futility and a parenting challenge we now know to be ready for. We end up having a good time, it is one of our happy places, but it is not easy.
What happens when I can’t be with Piper? When I can’t remove all the specs and tiniest particles from the insides of her shoes? I always ask who my children played with at school that day. It provides great insight and other interesting tidbits. One day Piper told me that she wanted to play with a particular friend of hers but she couldn’t because that friend plays in the sandbox. Huh? I had forgotten about our sand saga and asked why couldn’t she play with her? She looked at me frowning and said, “Because sand gets in my shoes and I can’t get it out.” I knew her sensitivities to sand, but I did not know that it was affecting her at school. I could see the longing in her eyes as well as the knowing that she has an issue that these other kids don’t. Piper can’t wear socks and wears only Native shoes. So, the sand seeps in through the holes in the shoes and it is extremely hard to get every single grain out. Even one grain of sand in an spd child’s shoes can spark a reaction. Native shoes are magical and have saved our sanity, but they cannot keep sand away. So, the school sandbox is out, and the heartbreak I feel over this is thunderous. To know that your child cannot play in a sandbox (of all things), and can only look longingly at her friends happily playing from the sidelines is crushing. And, I have no solution.
In the summer, flip flops reign over this house and then the sandbox/shoe dilemma disappears for awhile. But, school will be in session again soon and the cycle will resume.