On our way home from the toy store where he'd refused to pick out his prize for being a good listener all week ("you do it!" he demanded) I asked which he'd prefer, going home or going to the tidepools.
After a lengthy silence he replied "Tidepools."
When I pulled into the cove parking lot he looked up and asked querulously "What are we doing here?"
"You said you wanted to visit the tidepools."
"NO I didn't! It looks COLD!"
"I've got a sweater for you, come on."
Halfway across the beach he stopped to pour sand out of his shoes and refused to put them back on. When we got to the shoreline he was shivering because "my feet are FREEZING," so I hefted him up onto my shoulders & held his feet in my warm hands. Once on high he said "Dada, let's watch the tide for a while...right over there."
I stood with my toes up against the high water mark and we basked in the crashing surf for a time, Fuss squeaking when it a wave pushed up too high or marveling at the swifts nesting in the rocks zipping silently across our vision, like an upper and lower case V glued wing to tail.
Visitors arrived & departed while we stood watch.
Five coeds paused at the creek, four eventually splashing across and climbing to the stone arch where they nested a while, chattering and laughing, feet dangling well above the surf and their timid friend. A couple strolled up arm in arm but didn't stay, fog & cold spray confounding their romantic sunset vision. One family, wisely puffed up against the chill, unfurled a picnic dinner across one of the trestle tables bounding the parking lot. The waves stacked and broke, creeping closer and falling back, wrestling each other across the stones beneath the flashing black birds.
Eventually Fuss requested transport to the rough staircase up to the bluff road.
We sat on the bottom step to put his shoes back on, then climbed. I paused on the landing halfway caught by the sweep of the cove, a puzzle piece filled with a thumbprint of pewter ocean.
Fuss carried on without me and when I reached the summit he'd invented a fine game.
He tossed a rock underhanded down the stairs, then jumped down that many steps, picked up the rock and began again. When he reached the bottom he would sprint to the top and pitch his rock back down the stairs. I relaxed at the summit, half my attention on the vista, half on the copper dot bouncing up and down the stairs. He'd spanned the time between those stairs being a challenge and making a game of it like a cliff bird diving from its nest to the sand.
And as epilogue to this companionable idyll, the anticipated transitional disaster.
It was getting dark and I had to use the potty. I followed him down the stairs & cajoled him over to the bathrooms, asking him to wait outside. I emerged momentarily & he'd vanished, to be discovered hiding behind the ladies' bathroom. He didn't take my request to not hide like that because it worried me very well, immediately sitting down & dragging off his shoes, then sifting handfuls of dirt into them. Struggling to remain the calm, understanding, ideal parent, I explained the consequences of defiance, and he stood back up.
"Oh good," I thought, immediately before he hurled a dirt-filled shoe across the parking lot and took off after it.
A merry chase ensued, followed by enraged confinement in the back seat & a sullen ride home.
Much later after he'd been read books & tucked in I returned to the room to retrieve my glasses.
A sleepy voice from the bed spoke up.
"Dada, I'm sorry, I'll be a better listener tomorrow."
"Oh, good, thank you Fuss. I love you."
"I love you too, Dada.