You are at the beach with your kids. You have your ice chest that’s got speakers in it. You have the phone Bluetoothing the newest music from Spotify. You’re watching beautiful women walk by in the trendiest swimsuit of the moment. Airplanes fly overhead. The lifeguard drives by on a four-wheeler.
It’s easy in the moment to feel that this is all very modern. It’s just another part of our typical, tech-driven lives. Maybe it reminds us a little bit of our trips to the beach when we were kids, but this whole experience doesn’t go back that far, right? Vacations are a modern invention, a product of the 9-5 twentieth-century corporation.
What’s so wonderful about being a father is how timeless it truly is, how it connects us to every father and family that came before us. There is a line in one of Seneca’s essays: “Pueri in litoribus harenae congestu simulacra domuum excitant hi ut magnum aliquid agentes.” “While children at the beach bring toy houses to life out of heaps of sand, as though engaged in a grand enterprise...” That’s the kind of observation that a writer at the beach with their kids would make. Seneca was spending time with family and he was struck with the innocence and the metaphor of kids building sand castles…just like your kids build sand castles. And with that, two thousand years of distance evaporates. A father in ancient Rome, exactly the same as a father in Pensacola over spring break, or a dad at a public beach on Africa’s Ivory Coast.
It can be humbling and comforting to take time to think of these moments. As you try to reign in your difficult teenager, as your three-month-old falls asleep in your arms, as you nurse your daughter with health problems through her recovery—just how long this has been happening throughout human history. What a tradition you are part of. How many fathers have come before you and will come after.
We all struggle. We all triumph. We all smile watching them play in the sand.
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