Parents do a lot of hard, even heroic things.
I recently found out how much my parents paid for me to have braces, and life slowed down for a second.
They could have bought a car or gone on luxurious vacations but instead they paid for 3 sets of metal brackets on their daughters’ teeth.
I didn’t even respect my braces.
I ate tortilla chips and Starbursts and broke the brackets and had to have extra appointments because I didn’t follow the food rules. There are not enough apology notes in the world.
I am not a parent myself, but as a teacher, overall observer of people, and having two parents of my own, I am fully aware it is a tough gig.
However, out of all the sacrifice, time, money and energy it takes to be a parent, I am convinced after this weekend that one of the hardest things a parent can do is take small children to the beach.
Let me start by saying I have dipped my toes in the water, literally and metaphorically.
Last week, I was at the pool with my friend and her 9 month old.
The pool is an entry level to the beach. A beginner’s course.
It is a much more controlled environment and I would recommend starting there.
I asked my friend if I could help her get the baby ready to swim. She quickly agreed and I began the preparation process:
First came the disrobing.
Apparently babies cannot come ready to swim in their swimsuit because swim diapers don’t work out of water?
What?? It is 2017 and we don’t have diaper technology that allows water and air coverage? You can’t even do the prep work at home!
So, you change the baby out of the normal outfit and put on a swim diaper at a patio table.
Then comes the sunscreen. This is stressful because you are basically wrestling the child and trying to slather her in sunscreen- without getting in her eyes. I never felt like I put enough on her; I just kept slathering. Did I miss any spots? Will she burn? This is a lot of pressure.
2.5 hours later, the swimsuit, hat, floaty wings, etc. At this point you’re just exhausted but after all this work you should probably swim.
You have put in a full day’s work attempting to prepare the child for swimming, and the worst part is, no one gives you credit.
When more and more people started arriving at the pool, I felt like all of them should have stopped and noticed this baby ready to swim and thanked me and acknowledged me for the work I put in to make this happen.
I let many people know that I was the one, in fact, that got her ready to swim.
I wanted to be thanked and recognized, and this was just at the pool, so let me take a moment to honor all brave warrior parents who have taken their small children to the beach.
At this point in my life, adoring children but not quite ready for them yet, I sat in awe this past Sunday as I watched parents finagle their children at the beach.
I have so many questions for you.
First, the preparation.
As we just walked through together, getting children ready for water activities is no joke. The beach is a whole new level. I can barely get myself ready for the beach. Is it one full day of planning for the beach per 2 hours of being at the beach? Is it even worth it? Most people don’t even look that happy at the beach.
Second, the logistics.
Let’s start with the simple act of walking on the hot sand to your final beach site.
Me walking on sand has got to be the worst thing to witness. I trudge like a tank yet try to make my steps light and graceful so my feet don’t burn off.
How do you do this with children? Carrying bags and towels and coolers and babies? How?
Okay, let’s move to another logistical topic.
Let’s say you have 3 children. Ideally you would be there with help, but I see a lot of supermoms there alone. Okay so one child needs to use the bathroom, the kind where you need to actually go to a facility.
You have to bring your whole crew with you, and probably your stuff since you don’t want to leave it sitting there alone.
Do you go into the stall with your one child and leave the other 2 alone waiting?
Or do all 4 of you cram into one stall??? The other kids will not be happy about the interruption, and neither will you. How do you do it?
Third, the sand. I hate sand. No matter how hard you try, sand is everywhere. In every crack and crevice. The children roll in the sand, eat the sand, scream when sand is in their eye.
How do you handle the sheer quantity of sand? Do you vacuum immediately post beach or just live in sand all summer?
Fourth, the stress. I was at the beach Sunday and it was like Times Square on New Years Eve.
How would you ever relax keeping watch over children?
I nanny a family with 4 children during the summers, and any time we are in public, it is a constant game of counting 1-2-3-4 in my head to make sure I have all the ducklings.
Doing this at a crowded beach sounds like a nightmare. How do you relax?
Additionally, the recovery from the beach has got to be stressful. You get home with a bag of wet towels, tired, sandy, hungry children. You still have to feed them and bathe them and wash the towels.
Fifth, the unpredictable. Since hot, blazing sun, missed afternoon naps and toddlers sound like a fun combination, you never know what you’re going to get mood wise.
What if you get there and your child has a tantrum? You have devoted hours to arrive to this point, to no avail.
I witnessed a few meltdowns of wet, sandy, tired children on Sunday and wanted to say, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR PARENTS HAVE BEEN THROUGH TO BRING YOU HERE?!”
Dozens of beach memories flood my mind as I think back to my childhood. Who would have thought these beautiful sandy days were due to the selfless heroism of my parents.
I guess I just really wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the work that is taking children to the beach.
As my husband and I left, I saw one mom changing her baby in the trunk of the car. You couldn’t even see the trunk because it was covered in sand. A small boy was sobbing, carrying his toy truck and his dad told him it would be a “bummer” to hear him cry the whole way home. What a day.
I also realize that there are more than 5 questions. As it turns out, I had some sub-questions as well. I hope this is the first step in raising awareness for the amazing parents who have braved the beach this summer with their little ones. They will grow up one day and be thankful.
Happy remaining beach days!