Every year, while planning for our annual pilgrimage to the seaside, I would ask Ryan's pediatrician what I could do to prevent the rash from appearing in the first place. He would suggest antihistamines, various creams and lotions and inevitably a different vacation venue like the mountains, the city or perhaps a day trip to the zoo. That's when Denial would stick her fingers in my ears and I would walk out of the pediatrician's office mentally making my list of beach trip items, including the latest lotion that would inevitably prove futile.
Needless to say, I couldn't ignore Ryan for long once I sensed the other beach goers hatred filled, chum searching gaze. I tried distracting Ryan with sand toys, snacks, beverages and paddle ball. My tactics worked for about fifteen minutes. The whining persisted, the complaining got louder and my nerves got more and more frazzled. So once Ryan hit melt-down mode, out of complete and utter frustration, he kicked sand at me. Big. Giant. Mistake. Just like a Great White Shark, I saw red and went into a frenzy. I snatched Ryan up, plopped him on his beach chair and screamed, "You just bought yourself an extra hour!". Yep, I decided to punish my child for kicking sand in my face by making him stay at the beach longer...the horror! Most kids would have laughed at such a "punishment", being forced to play in the surf, build sand castles and eat junky snacks as a form of punishment, but Ryan wasn't most kids. To Ryan, that extra hour was punishment as it was for all our friends who were with us.
Coming from a fish who has always preferred to swim in a school surrounded by others pushing me and guiding me to go the same way as them, I am at times saddened, yet inspired by my big fish who cares little of what direction others are heading. He has his own path in mind. Ryan may be traveling in waters often designed for those swimming in a school, which at times makes survival difficult, but he and kids like him have proven to us group folks that being alone very rarely means being lonely and that being who you are, regardless of your differences, takes more courage, more strength, and more survival skills than all the Great Whites freaking us out on Shark Week.