Are Lake Michigan beaches safe?

My husband has tried for years to limit my access to tragic news stories that would reinforce the belief that we should keep our children inside and require them to wear helmets until they are 21. To aid in these efforts, Joe has sole ownership of the remote control, buries sad newspaper stories at the bottom of the recycling bin, and does his very best to keep me blissfully unaware of events that might cause me to overreact.

Whoever said “knowledge is power” was definitely not married to an over-reactor. For people such as myself, bits and pieces of information are carefully collected, stored, and ultimately used as rhetorical weapons when a certain husband makes preposterous suggestions:

“You want the kids to ride up to the park by THEMSELVES? Did you know that every THREE days in America, a child is abducted by a STRANGER?”

“You fed the kids strawberry SPINACH salad for dinner?? Didn’t you know that spinach is a high risk food for containing E. coli and salmonella? For the love of God, stick to the instant oatmeal like I asked.”

“You want the kids to play FOOTBALL??” (My head merely explodes from the amount of data stored regarding football and traumatic brain injury).

My poor husband. He works so hard to shelter me from myself, but fails to notice that there is this whole, new-fangled contraption called “the internet.” I can retrieve every tragic news story in milliseconds, ensuring my parental anxiety remains at Def-Con 4 at all times.

So when sinkholes began popping up as a big news story, I naturally began to panic. Then horror and disaster drew closer as one occurred only a few short miles from my house. I started Googling places that sold portable oxygen tanks and extra helmets -in case any loved ones found themselves abruptly swallowed by earth. Just when I thought nothing could worsen this phobia, I read about a darling 6-year-old boy who was enjoying a day at the beach when he became buried under 11 feet of sand for three hours because of a sinkhole. Beyond all reason and expectations, the child miraculously survived and was given a positive prognosis this week.

“That’s it,” I told my husband. “We are never going to the beach again. EVER.”

Joe’s mind worked fast. He knew that the more time I had to solidify my irrational fears, the less chance he stood to enjoy a day at the beach ever again. So he loaded up the minivan and announced yesterday morning that we were heading up to the Warren Dunes. Without sufficient preparation and internet sinkhole research, I was forced to take my seat up front.

By the time we arrived, I mapped out a safety plan. Joe and I were to walk to the lake first so we could test the conditions of each and every step. Then the kids would be required to trace our exact steps to ensure a secure and sinkhole-free path to swimming.

Joe circumvented my procedures by quickly doling out inner tubes and telling the boys to sprint to the water because the sand was so hot.

Despite all my trepidation, I enjoyed a marvelous day. I love the beach. I love the sun. I love stopping at Redamak’s for dinner and at Oink’s Ice Cream after that. I love watching my boys chase seagulls and collect rocks. Joe reminded me that long after we are gone, these memories we have made for our children will always remain. Our family is happiest at the beach, and I was silly to try to ruin all that.

Not surprisingly, the universe really hammered it home when a cameraman from a local CBS affiliate walked up to Joe as he sat down to dry off. The reporter wanted to know what Joe thought about the near-tragedy and why he wasn’t letting potential fears keep his family away from the beach. Joe’s response was perfect, click HERE to see.

I suppose when all else fails, having your husband provide a public service announcement against overreacting is probably the way to go.

But I’m still standing firm against football.

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