Friday, July 4, 2008

Beach Babies: What I Planned, And What Really Happened

So here it is, July Fourth, perhaps the biggest beach-going day of the year.

Late Blooming Mom had it all planned: we'd be out of the house, bathing suited and sun-screened, all supplies packed, by nine-thirty a.m.

We'd have a traffic-free drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Paradise Cove, a private beach in Malibu with a beach-side restaurant, pier, and mild waves. We'd frolic in the sand, picnic under our beach umbrella, and make a lovely half-day of it, getting back for nap time.

This ain't what happened.

How did I ever fool myself into thinking I'd get my beach babies -- two cranky, difficult three-and-a-half years-olds -- out of the house on a national holiday in a reasonable amount of time? Thanks to the full-on fit Thing 2 threw when I asked her to take a pre-excursion shower to wash her nest of hair (she'd refused the bath or shower last night, in another full-on-fit), we lost precious time. Victory was mine eventually -- I got her hair washed -- but then Thing 1 didn't want to stop playing with his cars long enough to get into his swimsuit.

Dad -- who had gamely fed them breakfast while I showered - was in no mood to take a long drive up the coast, and insisted on a much closer beach destination. Out went the fancy beach. No matter, public Will Rogers beach was just far enough away from the holiday hordes in Santa Monica, even if they did charge us an exorbitant ten-dollar parking fee.

The traffic gods were with us, so by ten thirty or so, we'd plunked ourselves down on the sand, with way too much stuff scattered around us: sand toys, lunch food, a beach ball, umbrella, blanket, diaper bag loaded with the kids' spare clothes. It seemed like we'd taken half the house with us.

The kids alternated from delighted to cranky within mere seconds. There was the fight over the request to eat cookies before lunch (denied); the fight over whether or not the lunch packed would be eaten or snack bar would be resorted to (the packed lunch won eventually); the fight over the last peanut butter and jelly sandwich (Thing 2 insisted this morning she only wanted peanut butter, no jelly, but then changed her mind at the beach).

There was fear of the ocean to contend with: only mommy or daddy actually made it into the water, and then just to fill up the bucket to make a mini-lake for the toy boats we brought.

There was the trip to the restroom, chaperoned by daddy, who had to handle both kids at once because someone had to sit with all our stuff (mom), and both kids insisted on going potty at the same time.

There was the sand-throwing ("Don't do that again, how many times do I have to tell you?").

There was the inevitable meltdown upon leaving. Thing 1 insisted on being carried because the sand was getting onto his flip flops, even though mommy kept explaining and demonstrating that we wear flip flops to the beach instead of shoes so they CAN get sand on them. Thing 2 blew a gasket at having to wear her car seat seat belt because her underwear felt "squishy."

Then they both fell asleep by the time we pulled into the garage.

Dad, still grumpy -- he's missing a reunion of college pals on the east coast this weekend -- went off to do some grocery shopping, insisting he needed a break.

And me, I'm left blogging, and realizing the idyllic beach excursion I had in mind was doomed from the start.

Still, there were moments -- the ones I'll remember, since they're the ones I bothered to photograph -- that were sweet. The kids loved the beach, even if daddy wanted to be elsewhere, and mommy couldn't relax because she was playing referee.

One moment I didn't capture on film that I may remember nonetheless was when we were all heading back to the car. Daddy had to carry Thing 1, and I was hauling our gear while trying to safeguard Thing 2 through the parking lot. An older gent passing by looked at us and said to me, "No one said it was gonna be easy."

He got that right.

I'll just add this other truism, slightly modified: "Late Blooming Mom plans. God laughs."

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